Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This Moment

Have you noticed how "being in the moment", or "mindfulness", is becoming more and more mainstream in our society? I hope it continues to become important to many more people.

Mindfulness is an important concept, one that has been around for centuries, especially in various religions.

For so many years we have idolized the Type A personality, the successful multi-tasker. I have done so myself. Even given myself pats-on-the-back because I was able to accomplish so many things at once.

In the days when my children were younger, I would be a whirl wind of activity, cooking dinner, helping my children with their homework, doing laundry, and also making a kazillion phone calls to solicit volunteers for a project I might be working on. I would end the evening exhausted, but feeling like I had accomplished so much. "Wow, I got it all done!"

But more often than not the scenario was really more like ...

Blackened grilled chicken breasts, (and no it wasn't Cajun chicken), a bowl of cold peas set out on the table, only to realize as they were being served, I had forgotten to heat them up. A whiny frustrated child because I wasn't completely focused on the homework problem she/he was struggling with. When the person I called answered their phone I would have no idea who I had called, because I hadn't been paying attention to the number I had dialed, or I had called them once already. A load of blue jeans taken out of the dryer, only to find they were a sticky multicolored mess, because I forgotten to check Miss daughters jean pockets, which before they went into the washer and dryer had been filled with jelly bellies.

At times, being able to multi-task is a wonderful skill to have, but more often than not there are detrimental side effects as well.

The more we do, the more stressed we become. In my case, the more I do, the more...eh...ditzy...I become. I forget things. I forget where I put my car keys, I forget appointments, I forget promises made, I forget some item at the market, all because I am trying to accomplish as much as possible, as fast as possible, in as little time as possible.

There are hundreds of websites devoted to mindfulness, and how it can be accomplished. All touting different ways of achieving it. Most suggest meditation. And I think that does aid one in learning the behaviours necessary. But it can also be accomplished without a daily dose of meditation.

Being mindful, is having the ability in one sense to become an observer, an observer of the self, and what we are experiencing any given moment. It is not getting caught up in the emotions, or dwelling on those fleeting, memories of the past in which we were not happy, or, wishes for the future.

We learn to see clearly.

Being aware of the moment, is a process in which we differentiate all of what is going on right now, in this moment. We may oftentimes have to make a conscious decision to let the circuitous thoughts go, and just observe all that is going on at a given moment, without getting caught up in our opinions of that moment. Just letting the thought processes happen without examining them.

Some very simple examples of some of my moments today.

I had been at my desk most of the day inputting information into a client file, my mind busy seeking options and solutions to the client's problems. When I noticed how stuffy my office felt, how tense my neck felt, how stiff my entire body felt. As I was observing those physical sensations of exhaustion, I also observed something else for the first time. There was a very light cool breeze occasionally wafting across my face, coming from the hallway. I decided then and there to seek that breeze out. As I followed the fresh scented air, I found an outer door propped open. As I stood in the doorway, I felt the breeze blowing my skirt against my legs, sifting and lifting my hair. I walked out onto the landing placing my hands on the sunwarmed wood of the railing, closed my eyes, and simply reveled in the feel of it all.

There were thoughts flickering through my brain, "I am so tired, I hope I sleep tonight. I really should get back to work. I have so much more to do. I wonder what I should make for dinner tonight? will the kids be home?" As each thought would flash by, I would find myself dwelling on it for a brief second, before the next entered my consciousness. But then I remembered where I was, why I was out there. Closing my eyes, turning my face into the breeze, I allowed myself to simply be there, observing how I was feeling due to that gentle breeze playing against me. That was a good moment. Within minutes of my standing there--being there-- I felt more refreshed than I had for hours. I stopped worrying about my should bes, or what nexts, stopped thinking I was wasting 10 precious minutes. I will remember this day, that moment, because I was mindful of it.

Another example from today. On my way home tonight, I stopped at a local convenience store to buy some orange juice. As I stood online, I found myself becoming impatient. "Why is this taking so long? What does that woman want that she's taking up so much of the clerk's time?" I noticed a twinge of pain in my lower back, my toes aching because I had worn high heels all day. Then I realized what I was doing and I made a conscious decision. Stop, I then focused on what I was experiencing, what I was feeling. I understood then that those moments standing online weren't lost time. I let go of my physical discomfort, I then began to observe my fellow store patrons, I could almost feel the person standing online behind me. I saw the friendly banter between the clerk and the customer, I didn't care about what I was doing, or where I was, I was enjoying their pleasure in the conversation they were sharing. Their smiles made me feel brighter. It was simply a moment in time, I lost my feelings of unease, and became aware of the many bright colors of the many packaged foods on display in the shop, the body language of those around me, it may sound silly, but at one point I focused on the candy bar display, and enjoyed the memories of how my favorites taste...almost as good as eating one.

I was there in that moment, and it felt good. I still feel better. My tiredness lifted, it became not a burden, but simply a minor part of how I am feeling. In one sense the fatigue my body feels is pleasant, I am aware of it, aware it was caused by what I accomplished today. I'm enjoying it, and those feelings, instead of berating myself for not getting enough done.

I spent so many years of my life looking ahead, or looking behind, I forgot to notice those fleeting moments that could have/would have added so much more joy, and contentment to my life.

Many of my most precious memories are of times when I simply was, times when I was very much alive in the moments I was experiencing. Very much aware of the small beauties inhabiting my world. I once wrote of a Moondust Magic day, a day I was aware of all that was good. I am now trying to be aware of Moondust Magic Moments. Those are the best moments. Finding joy, finding happiness, finding contentment, finding serenity can be so simple, yet we tend to make it so complicated.

There have been myriads of studies of done on the psychological and health benefits of living in the moment. ( I am not going to post them all, they are there to google).

In a condensed form the benefits are;

"Thinking about the thought process -- and experiencing the moment is really about awareness. It’s one of the tools you can use to strengthen your neural connections and reduce stress. Focusing on what you’re doing right now keeps your mind from worrying about the mistakes you made yesterday and the headaches that await you tomorrow. It takes some time and effort, but, in the end, the act of living in the moment rewards not only you but also the people around you."

Focus, observe, be here now.


Anonymous said...

Staying in the moment is hard at first but it is much less stressful. I've been practicing and still a lot more practice but I'm getting better at it. You might be interested in this woman's blog. She wrote something very similar today, about multi tasking in particular.


Sunny Delight said...

It can be very hard at times, yet when we can find our way to just living those moments, it reduces so many things...stress...depression...worry.

I will read her, thank you.