The other day I got into my car to head to an appointment. Before I realized what I was doing, I found myself heading instead to Wegman’s. It was like my car was on autopilot. Actually, it was like I was on autopilot. Where was my mind? Certainly not on the task at the hand. It was more likely going over something that happened earlier or thinking about something in the future. I was clearly NOT focused on what I was doing.
Most people spend a lot of time thinking about the past or future. We are reviewing things that annoyed us, people who wronged us, what we could have or should have said. Or maybe we are reminiscing about someone or something that we miss. I know that I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about what I need to do, planning and worrying about outcomes. But the reality is that the past is gone, and the future hasn’t happened yet. The only thing that is real is right here and right now. The present moment.
This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing when our thoughts are focused anywhere else but in this moment. It is called a practice because it does not come naturally to most people. We need to train our “mindfulness muscle” to observe when our thoughts are straying and then kindly and without judgement bring ourselves back to this moment. Each time we become aware that we are caught up anywhere but here, we simply redirect our attention to the present moment.
Sound challenging? It is! But the more we practice, the easier and sooner we notice when we are lost in thought so we can steer ourselves back to now. There are so many benefits of being mindful and in the moment. For me, I feel much calmer. I spend less time tied up in knots about something that is over and done with or hasn’t happened yet and more time enjoying what I am doing.
Give it a try. The next time you get in the car to go somewhere, be fully in the car and notice everything about the experience of driving and getting to where you are heading. When you have a snack, try eating it without any other distractions. Notice the crunch of the nuts or the sweetness of the grape. When you wash your hands, be aware of how nice the warm water feels and give your fingers a gentle massage. This moment is the only thing that is truly real, so I invite you to practice being present and see how you feel. And, please let me know if I can help you learn how to be more mindful!