By this time of the year, you are probably rejoicing about or dreading the fact that Christmas and New Year are just around the corner. The mere mention of that time of the year most probably brings to your mind images of budgets, last minute shopping, kids screaming, traffic jams and hot weather.
Now that I have paced and led you into this scene, you are most probably wondering how the year has flown by. What, your mind screams, is it already the end of the year? Wow! The time has gone so fast…
Time does seem to be accelerating. That sunrise on the first of January 2000 on a beach in Sydney, bursting with promises and dreams, seems so far away. I wonder what happened to your commitments and your dreams for the new millennium.
If you are part of the multitude who feels that time is flying by; that the days are merging into the weeks, into the months and into the years, you will concur that this blur into the future may be awakening within you a frustration of incompleteness and feelings of too little too late.
I am moved by the way Henry Longfellow expresses it in the Theologian’s Tale:
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So, on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
One concept to get you more connected to the here and now and stir up feelings of awareness and appreciation is ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the events in your life in a non-judgmental and open way. It is about making contact with yourself and the world around you, including the people in it. Mindfulness is not just about going inside to notice what is there, but also about connecting with where you are and who you are with - right now in the present moment.
Mindfulness allows us to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and behavior just as they are. When we are mindful, we are no longer stuck in our automatic reactions. It helps us accept things we cannot change as well as allowing us greater flexibility and freedom. The paradox is that as we practice watching our thoughts come and go without reacting, they slowly lose control over us. We gently but firmly bring our awareness and focus back to a place of our choice. In so doing, we create a desired state of being.
You don’t need a formal meditation practice to experience mindfulness. In fact, research by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues at UMASS Medical Center in 2005 found that “moments of mindfulness” were highly effective at creating the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and relaxation. Across your work day you can invoke moments of mindfulness by trying these seemingly simple practices: take a moment and take an easy breath in and an easy breath out - just noticing without judgment your sensations, feelings and thoughts.
Following are some ideas on how you could practice this in your life:
§ When you first put your feet on the floor in the morning. Feel the sensations in the bottom of your feet.
§ Under the shower, feel the water on your body.
§ When putting on your shoes, put on the one you usually put on second, first.
§ When you get in your car, before starting the engine, be aware of your body in your seat; be mindful of fastening your seatbelts and making any adjustments. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out, and let your shoulders settle down. Then start your car.
§ If you commute by bus, be aware of the seat supporting your body and be aware of the vibrations of the vehicle as well as the presence of your fellow travelers.
§ Take a moment when you get to work before going inside. Breathe deeply. Notice what feels tight or loose as you breathe. Notice the weather, the people walking around you, and what thoughts are crossing your mind.
§ Use the walk to your desk to do ‘mindful’ greetings. Be mindful of your hello and smile, and be mindful of the ones you get in return. Take a moment to take in the hellos and smiles you get.
§ Take ‘mindful’ breaks. Get up and walk the length of the hallway, or simply stretch in your office for one minute. Breathe. Ask yourself what you need most to be more effective.
§ Take a moment to notice the key board of your computer and feel your fingers tapping away on each key to form words and create meaningful sentences or figures.
§ Every time you hear a mobile phone ring, use the sound as a reminder to pay attention to your breathing and come back into awareness.
§ Notice… Take a deep breath, notice 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear and 5 things you can feel (shoes, clothes, watch wristband, hair against forehead)
§ Notice your feelings as you travel back home. Where in your body do you feel them, and what would help you feel taken care of at the end of this day.
§ Be mindful of entering your home at the end of the workday. Feel your hand on the doorknob or handle, notice what you see and hear and smell as you enter.
§ Take a moment for ‘mindful’ conversation with your spouse, children or parents at some point in the evening. Share some of what you noticed about your day. Ask them about their day. This mindful conversation is just about sharing information and is not about problem-solving.
§ Notice what it feels like to lay back down in bed. Scan your body for areas of tension and relaxation. Breathe deeply and easily and bring your breathing to the areas that need some tension relief.
Should you want to be guided into a ‘mindful’ meditation, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHhDCW4Q1Rc
Mindfulness will help you re-connect, providing more meaning to your actions and the world around you. Time does seem to be going by faster and yet we know that we have the same amount of time within one day or one month that our great-grand parents had. Mindfulness will provide you with a sharp, uncommon focus in your daily activities that will in turn give you a sense of accomplishment and a joy of life that many think is of a foreign domain, that of gurus and mystics.