By Stacey Seacord-Peters
Our mind is our most valuable and precious resource through which we experience every single moment of our life. We rely upon our mind to be happy, content and emotionally stable as individuals. At the same time we rely on it to keep us kind and considerate in our relationships with others. This is the same mind that we depend upon to be focused, creative, spontaneous and to perform at our very best in everything we do. Yet we don’t take the time to take care of it. We spend more time taking care of our kids, our jobs, our cars and our appearances. The list is endless.
The result, of this lack of care for our mind, is that we get stressed. Our mind becomes like a tornado going round and round with lots of thoughts and confusing emotions that we don’t really know how to deal with. We become so distracted that we are no longer present in the world in which we live. We miss out on the things that are most important to us. The crazy thing is that we assume that’s the way life is, but that’s not how it has to be.
I strongly believe that having a greater understanding and appreciation for the present moment is one of the easiest and most healthful ways to take care of our mind. What does being in the present moment mean? It means not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions. It means being in the here and now.
I recently read an article in the Harvard Gazette Wandering mind not a happy mind that talked about research done by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T Gilbert of Harvard University. The article stated that on average our minds are lost in thought almost 47 percent of the time and that this constant mind wandering is a direct cause of unhappiness. I don’t know about you, but life is too short to spend almost half it lost in thought that potentially makes us unhappy, especially when we can do something about it. There are positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven techniques which allow our minds to be healthier, to be more mindful and less distracted.
One way to accomplish this is through meditation. When approaching meditation in the right way you are acquainting yourself with the present moment, giving you the best results. Most people think that mediation is about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions and somehow controlling the mind. Actually meditation is quite different from that. It is more about stepping back so you are seeing the thoughts clearly, witnessing them coming and going, witnessing emotions coming and going without judgment and with a relaxed focused mind.
So, for example, there may be times when your focus is a bit too intense and life starts to feel very uncomfortable, confused and stressed. At other times things may become more laid back, relaxed, uncaring and loose. Of course, in meditation if you become too lax you end up falling asleep. So we’re looking for a balance, a focus with relaxation where we can allow thoughts to come and go without all the usual involvement. What usually happens when we are learning to be mindful is that we get distracted by a thought. When that thought comes through we have a tendency to go back and repeat it over and over and focus on that thought. We become anxious. Then we become anxious about feeling anxious. The whole time knowing this is crazy, yet we keep doing this consistently on an everyday kind of level. It’s like having a loose tooth. You know it is loose and you know it hurts but every 20 to 30 seconds you are playing with it, reinforcing the storyline of that loose tooth. It is only in learning to watch the mind acting this way that we can start to let go of those storylines and patterns of mind.
Mediation and mindfulness offer the opportunity, the potential, to step back and get a different perspective, to see if things aren’t always as they appear. You know we can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life; however, we can change the way we experience it. That is the potential of meditation and mindfulness. You don’t have to burn any incense and you don’t have to sit on the floor. All you need to do is to take ten minutes out of the day to do absolutely nothing. No eating, drinking, phone calls, TV, petting the dog etc. Just do nothing at all. Step back and view your thoughts clearly, witness them coming and going, witness the emotions these thoughts create, do this without judgment, without emotion and with a relaxed focused mind. Familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you can experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.