Ever feel like life is passing you by? Mindfulness brings you back to the present and allows you to be fully engaged in your life. You probably find that most of your thoughts are of the past or the future. You may feel in your head most of the day, meaning you are not attentive to what is going on around you. You are thinking and calculating and planning and criticizing.
This is a natural tendency in this culture. You do not pay attention. If you are constantly distracted, you don’t have to really feel. Chances are you are pretty numb all the time. This resistance to feeling anything is what leads to workaholism, binge eating, alcoholism, and all other addictions. You choose feeling nothing over the fear of feeling bad. The problem is you never get to feel good, either. Mindfulness gives you your life back. Being aware of your external surroundings and your internal experiences allows you to be here now. Get off the mouse wheel. Stop. Breathe.
STEP 1: Tolerate the quiet. Sit in a room with nothing to distract you. Be comfortable, lounge. Have a notebook and pen next to you. Do this the first day for 5 minutes. Write down common thoughts you notice in your head as they come. See if you can identify any feelings, and even better if you notice where you feel them in your body.
Each day build on this time by 5 minutes. By the end of the week, you should be able to just sit for at least thirty minutes and listen to yourself. Keep writing this is actually a good way of processing your thoughts. It is good to take this list after the exercise and journal deeper on the initial thoughts. Turn the radio off when you are driving. The car can be a great place to check in with yourself and practice mindfulness since you are typically alone. It is good to see what is going on in your head as you drive to work or drive home.
STEP 2: Meditate. I always resisted this because I thought it was pointless and unproductive. I cannot express to you what a valuable tool it is to be able to release your thoughts or, ultimately, stop them for a while. Most people struggle with some level of anxiety, and learning how to meditate would benefit them greatly.
Your thoughts run, like a ticker tape from a news show, constantly in your head. Try right now to not have a thought. It is so difficult to stop the thoughts. There are a variety of meditation techniques available explore them to find what works best for you. Even when you are in your daily life, you will begin to use your meditation techniques to bring an inner calm amid the chaos.
Your constant thoughts are serving a purpose. You escape the moment with your thoughts. You decrease anxiety by constantly reminding yourself what you need to get done. If you are thinking about what you are doing a year from now, who is living right now? The future will take care of itself.
You get a false sense of control when you worry about the future. You have no control. All the planning in the world cannot control exactly what will play out. In the future, you are just as capable as the current you of handling whatever comes up.
It feels like falling when you release your worry. It feels like you are letting go of a rope and falling off a cliff. But that rope is a snake. Worry makes you live as though terrible things are happening (you feel the real stress), and most of these things never happen. You won’t know they are not going to happen until you die. Do you want to wait until then to stop worrying?