Why we need mindfulness in our lives
Hello, a warm EM welcome to anyone joining us for the first time and welcome back to everyone else as we continue on this journey.
Last time I shared with you my interpretation of consciousness as being a simple wakefulness, one’s sense of selfhood or soul, that is explored by looking within; and spirituality as the acknowledgement of the infinite potential inherent in each soul which is beyond our cognition and perception, and the connection of that soul to all that is; this too is explored by looking within.
I have one more concept that I’d like to explore before we dive in deeper and figure out how to start this looking within, and that is Mindfulness. This word that has been bandied about extensively for the past few years. I have attended mindfulness workshops and classes and yet somehow I never really understood what it was or how it applied to me. It is defined thus:
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment.
After much thought and introspection, I have come to understand that when we are living mindfully, we are fully aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. This allows us to live in the present moment and not be subject to the distractions of outside stimuli such as other people’s needs, past learning or ingrained impulse responses.
Let me see if I can explain it in the simplest of terms. Imagine that you are in a children’s playground. As the children are playing, the parents or guardians can be heard calling out, “be careful.” What they are actually saying, often without even knowing it is, “be mindful. Think about what you’re are doing before you do it. Make sure that you won’t get hurt.” Simple and clear — check in with yourself, think before you act. This is, of course, not a reasonable request of a small child who is developmentally not wired for that degree of self-awareness or self-control. This why you’ll often find children crying in playgrounds having been bashed into by a flying swing, run over by someone leaping off the roundabout, or having slipped and fallen off the jungle gym whilst distracted by a playmate’s entreaty to “Look at me, look at me!”
I found some video footage recently of my eldest daughter at around 4 years of age. She had climbed to the top of the mast while playing on a pirate ship model. She was far too high for me to reach her and when she began to feel unsafe and called out to me to help her. I heard myself telling her, “You can do this, think yourself down”. I watched the video with my heart in my throat, and I saw her pause, think long and hard, weigh up the situation, decide she could handle it, check her fear and nimbly scramble down landing on the deck feeling very proud of herself. Without even knowing it, I was teaching her to be mindful. She could have created a scene and panicked necessitating me to call in reinforcements. She could have stayed up there refusing to budge with the same outcome. She could have been angry with me for not rescuing her. But she chose to pause and work out how she felt about all of those options, and to make a decision for herself how to deal with the problem… and then she took action.
Mindfulness isn’t just about pausing and maintaining focus though, rather it’s a complete awareness, with you at the centre, with no distractions. Living a mindful life entails taking the time to be still, to think through and understand how you feel, and also to consider the consequences of your actions — before you commit to them. This leads you to consciousness and hopefully the choosing of actions that won’t harm either yourself or others. It consciously puts you and your needs to the forefront of the equation as well as in command of your actions and your subsequent imprint in the world. This affords you complete responsibility for the consequences of those actions. The energy of mindfulness is one of consideration, choice and decision making, which is really empowering. Without mindfulness one might feel as though life is simply happening to you.
Much of my life was lived with no mind at all to how my actions would impact me. I had been taught in life by a mentally ill mother that I was all but irrelevant in the equation. My only purpose was to serve without question and that led to massive resentment and frustration and a build-up of internal anger that threatened to consume me. All of that was happening without my knowledge or consent because I had no idea that I was even allowed to have an opinion or to question my status in life. This led to extreme victim mentality. I was a slave to my impulses and my overt emotional triggers. Nothing felt fair to me and I felt really put-upon and used. Often I experienced great overwhelm and I started to mentally check out. I sometimes found that I would drive somewhere and arrive with no recollection of the journey. I was fast asleep at the wheel in my own life, living the complete opposite of mindfulness.
One last thought on this matter; being mindful is not about analysis paralysis where you get stuck, frozen in an agony of indecision, afraid to make any choice lest you offend someone or make waves. It is much more subtle that than. It’s really just about pausing and considering for a moment what you are about to do and how you truly feel about it before you mindfully commit yourself. A child who has been taught mindfulness may want to leap off the swing at its highest apex, but first they will do a couple of practice swings to make sure they feel ok with the risk. There’s a possibility they might sprain their ankle if they land wrong (yes the thrill is worth the risk, or perhaps, no it isn’t); They will also scan their immediate surroundings to make sure they won’t land on anyone else if they do leap off.
On the most basic level, imagine you’re having breakfast. You really want another slice of toast. Pause. you’ve had two already. You realise that you’ re acting on impulse. How do you feel about saying no? How do you feel about saying yes? Yes feels better to you than no, you acknowledge that since you are carrying a few extra pounds that you would prefer to shed, you may need to take the stairs at the office instead of the elevator to work off the extra calories, so more toast it is. Done and dusted in two seconds flat. The alternative is to simply act on impulse, eat the third slice of toast and then find yourself afterwards berating yourself for your lack of willpower and struggling to love your overweight body which could easily spiral into a cycle of self-loathing and comfort eating and you’ll probably be feeling so disheartened you take the elevator without thinking about it. Sounds extreme? I think millions of people struggling with their self-image face this sort of simple dilemma every day. In and of itself it isn’t a catastrophic life-event, but it is a clear symptom of not living mindfully. Far easier to enjoy the toast, take the stairs and embrace your day guilt free without self-loathing or limiting thoughts.
Mindfulness is a basic and fundamental concept that puts you in charge of your actions and the consequences thereof. That way you won’t do as I did and bumble along making a hash of things and end up wondering what the heck happened and how you ended up where you are in a place that is uncomfortable and unsustainable. Far better to mindfully put yourself at the centre of your own life and consider your needs, feelings, requirements, goals, hopes and dreams first and foremost.
As always, I offer you my understanding of these concepts and how they have applied to my life. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I’m always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:
We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another
So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but know that bullying, shaming or disrespect on any level violates a hard and fast boundary for me.
I encourage you to listen with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. As you EMerge from your learned way of being, celebrate as you EMbrace your full potential. By EMancipating yourself from your limitations you EMpower yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!
Until next time when I shall take a look at So, Who’s Running the Show? be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are
© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed