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“Minding Your Mindfulness”

If you’re anything like me, my life feels like it’s lived as if I’m watching a movie on ‘fast forward’. Except, I’m IN the movie and the movie is MY life…

This is no way to live our lives; as if we are time travellers witnessing life but never getting to stop and experience it. This is not an earth-shattering new idea, right? You and everyone I know (which includes me) already know this.

We all know that we must each learn to be fully present in the moments of our lives. To live at the level of experience as opposed to living meta to our experience, i.e. living in our heads, observing life.  We all know that we must be more mindful of our lives.

Contemporary wisdom has certainly frequently highlighted the importance of practising mindfulness to cope more successfully with the many, and often conflicting, demands that make up our daily lives.

When I talk about ‘mindfulness’ what I mean is being fully present and engaged in each moment of our lives. It’s a tough new habit to build because we have collected so many self-destructive and/or unhelpful habits and strategies along the way as we’ve lived our lives.

One of our biggest challenges in living more mindfully is to break the habit of being so quick to harshly judge ourselves, others, and the events in our lives.

To replace this rigid and limiting habit, which has caused us and others so much pain, with the more compassionate and liberating habit of suspending our rush to judgement.

The challenge of course is that we LIKE certainty. It gives us a greater sense of control. After all, as Carl Jung, the ‘father’ of Analytic Psychology liked to point out, thinking takes effort and that’s why most people prefer to judge. It’s just easier. It’s also not useful because it limits our choices in life.

The reality is that nothing in life has any meaning until we give it a meaning. We do this to help us make sense of our world. It’s a great skill. The challenge is that we often forget that to make sense of our world in this way, we use our personal ‘map’ of the world as the ‘single’ and only truth.

An event is simply an event. Facts have no emotions. So, that event has no meaning until we give it one. And the meaning that we give any event in our lives is based on the way in which we interpret the event, not on the event itself.

Our interpretation of any event is driven by our ‘map’ of the world. We tend to forget that our map of the world is NOT the world; it is our representation of the world. So, um, we could be wrong, right? We must adopt a more ‘let’s wait and see’ approach.  Sort of like this Zen Farmer that I read about some time ago…

There is an old Zen story about a farmer who bought a fine stallion one Monday at market for a good price. His neighbours came to admire it and all said, “How fortunate you are!” to which the farmer replied, “Maybe…”

On the Tuesday the stallion escaped through a gap in the fence and ran away to the hills. Now all the neighbours said, “How awful – what a catastrophe!” to which the farmer replied, “Maybe…”

Then on Wednesday the stallion returned to the farm with a small herd of wild mares behind him. This time the neighbours were ecstatic, crying, “What luck! How marvellous” to which the farmer replied, “Maybe…”

On the Thursday the farmer’s only son was breaking in the wild mares when one of them threw him and he broke his leg. In the evening the neighbours talked of the tragedy and misfortune to which the farmer replied, “Maybe…”

And on Friday, the Emperor’s army came looking for able-bodied recruits to fight and almost certainly die in a war somewhere in the north…

The neighbours’ responses to the events in the Zen Farmer’s life were determined by the meaning they chose to apply to those events. After all things aren’t always as they may seem as the Zen Farmer clearly knew. Wise man.

Why should we care about this? Well, in my experience all too many of us are unknowingly trapped in a prison of our own making. We are constantly re-living painful experiences from our past and/or catastrophising our future. Actually, we’re just M.I.A. from life.

It’s hard to settle into the present with all this ‘noise’ going on in our heads. The result? We are cut off from our ability to be creative.

Dr Joe Dispenza, a world-renowned author and teacher in the field of the mind-body connection, points out that stress hormones cause us to feel separated from our inner potential; our potential to learn, to create and to trust.

The irony is that it is precisely when we are under pressure and stressed, regardless of the reason why, that we need all our internal resources to be available to us. To be able to successfully tap into our energy and potential to respond to the demands of our lives with greater awareness and creativity.

As Anthony Robbins, the guru of peak performance, states: –

What does this mean? We must invest some of our time and energy in developing our inner resources and resourcefulness. Mindfulness is a useful resource. That’s it.

Here are some useful tips to build mindfulness. I hope you find them both practical and useful.

  • Take a couple of minutes, at regular intervals, every day, to tune into your breathing. Sense the flow of your breath, the rise and fall of your chest and belly, and focus on taking 5 deep, cleansing breaths – exhaling negative energy and emotions and inhaling positive energy and emotions.
  • Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. What are you seeing, hearing and feeling in that moment? For example, when you are eating, notice the colour, texture and taste of your food.
  • When you are walking, pay attention to how your weight shifts and the sensations in your body, e.g. the feel of the floor under your feet. Focus less on where you are going and more on your journey.
  • Don’t feel that you must fill up your time doing things. Where does that need come from? Take some ‘me’ time every day to simply ‘be’.
  • When you find your mind wandering, thinking unhelpful thoughts, gently bring it back to focus on your breath and the present moment.
  • Repetition builds skill. Practise the Zen Farmer’s approach. Recognise that your thoughts are simply thoughts; you don’t have to believe them or react to them immediately.
  • Actively practise listening without judgment every time you are around others. It’s like any other skill, it’s built over time.
  • Notice where you tend to ‘zone out’ during your day (e.g. driving, emailing, texting, etc.). Practise bringing more awareness to these activities.
  • Regularly spend quiet time in nature noticing all the colours, the sounds and your physical sensations while you do so. This focuses you on the ‘here and now’.
  • Spend time writing in your personal journal every day. Not only is it a great tool to increase our mindfulness, it also a rich source of learning for you and an exciting journey into your best future.

Of course, none of us ever has enough time. I’ve heard the statement, “In the real world…”  so many times that I’ve lost track of which version of the world I’m supposed to look at. I don’t know any other version of the world than the one I live in.

In the ‘real world’, if it matters to you, you’ll find the time to do it, whatever it is. As the Hip Hop Preacher tells us, there’s no such thing as procrastination, it’s just that something is not really important to us.

Anyway, here are some daily reflection questions that I think you may find useful to make the most of your daily reflection and journaling time. Enjoy and remember that repetition builds mastery.

Please make it a point to visit Mind Matters @ Monzi regularly to check for
new blogs. This is just the first of many blogs I hope to share with you.

to your greatness 🌼

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