The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
~ Hanh Nhat Thich
I sat in in my office, slumped in my chair, fingers tapping away on the keys of the laptop. I was writing this post and I suddenly realized that the actual thoughts streaming through my brain were not the ones appearing on the page. Oh, I recognized the words all right. They had sailed through my consciousness just moments ago, but they were not the ones I was thinking about. My autopilot was doing the actual typing.
In the present moment, my rowdy brain had moved onto five new thoughts.
I was deliberating what I wanted to say next, deciphering the noise coming from downstairs and reviewing my daily ‘to-do’ list. I felt my stress level rising because I was lagging behind on the tasks I wanted to get done and I had an overwhelming desire for a cup of coffee.
Was I being mindful or not? Not.
Mindfulness is a mental state where we tame our runaway thoughts. We become calm and accepting of the present moment without judging who we are, where we are, what we are doing, our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is a moment of stillness, of presence, of peace.
I do not believe that in our fast-paced world it is realistic to live attentively every minute of every day; nor do I believe the pundits who promote mindfulness expect us to. Having said that, there is much written on the benefits of having a disciplined practice of meditation, the mental exercise that gets us to a state of heartful mindfulness. Some of us, however, struggle to do so.
Someone suggested to me about a year ago that I consciously and deliberately slow down what I was doing three times a day, for ten or fifteen seconds at a time. All I had to do was take a few deep breaths, let my thoughts go and just be in the moment. I was to calmly focus on my breathing and continue my activity while quietly noticing the physical sensation of sights, sounds, smell and touch. After I finished my ‘moment’, I was free to return to my normal obstreperous operation.
It sounded simple enough. I was surprised how challenging it was. The colossal momentum of life seemed to always take over I couldn’t remember to stop for these special ‘moments’! Oh dear.
I decided to use triggers to remind myself. Here are some of the ones that got me started.
The first cup of coffee in the morning! I hold my cup, feeling its heat radiating through the tips of my fingers. I breathe in the aroma. I take my first sip and let the coffee linger on the tongue before I swallow it. I feel its warmth trickle down my throat. I smile.
Sitting in a car stopped behind a red traffic light. Sometimes I spin my ring to help me focus. There’s nothing else to do but wait, so I breathe deeply, allowing the jumbled thoughts to float away like a ship at sea and focus on the stillness and the twirling of my ring.
In the shower! Generally, when I rinse my hair, just for a few seconds, I stop to feel the water drops against my skin and listen to their hum and feel their warmth. Pure luxury.
Beating eggs with a hand mixer while baking in my kitchen. I’ve learned I cannot rush the blending of eggs and sugar. (Oh, I’ve tried!) Now I just stand back, breathe, accept and get calm. My thick fluffy egg/sugar ribbon will be done when it’s done and not a moment sooner. Recently Hubby asked if I’d want a countertop stand-mixer so I could do other things while the ingredients were blending. I said, “No.”
And finally, that instant delectable bursts of joy when eating CHOCOLATE! The rich buttery bite makes me want to twirl it with my tongue, tease it and savor it before I swallow it. A chocoholic’s delight! How can I not be present for that?
Today I’m finding it easier to remember to include mini-mindful moments throughout the day. Some days I have more of them than others and that is okay.
I think the real magic started to happen when I chose to engage in this practice while doing loathsome tasks like cleaning the toilet. Gradually, over time, I have somehow lost some of my aversion to undertaking these tasks. That, in my book, is a miracle in itself.
Okay, I’ve waited long enough. I’m going down for my cup of coffee. Care to join me?