Oct 3, 2021 • 8M

Living In The Moment

Paying Attention, Mindfulness

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I was walking with my wife recently and speaking prose like a mad philosopher.

She turned to me once I had exhausted my last word and said, "do you ever just walk, like, enjoy the trees and not think?".

Boom!

The realisation shocked me. Every day, I embark on a long stroll, but my mind is elsewhere.

The revelation was a long time in the making and shook my paradigm.

I was so focused on within, that I barely noticed the true beauty that surrounded me.

I wasn't paying attention.

How had I become so jaded and trapped in my mind?

Missing Life's Simplest Joys

Have you ever been on a holiday where the planning and anticipating far outweighed the experience?

Our senses take the back seat, and we begin to drift into our imaginations.

We become so distracted by the next task or our thoughts of the past or future that we let the magic of life escape us.

The paradox is we need to be present to ascribe emotion to an experience, this is how we form lasting memories. But if we are not attentive, we lose our ability to recollect the moment, stripping us of potentially sacred memories.

There have been times where I over-planned a holiday, then felt exhausted and stressed from rushing between activities, when the entire point was to relax and enjoy.

Imagine this:

You're on a train in a foreign land with people you love, and all you can think about is," I'm going to be late for hang-gliding".

Then you finally get airborne, which is a miracle in itself, but your mind is now concerned with your dinner reservations.

Hindsight will ultimately reveal the rarity of an event, but what if we could notice what is happening as it occurs?

Whether the moment is spectacular or simple, embrace the good and the bad by concentrating on the activity. Then we can create a sense of awe and wonder in seemingly dull moments.

What if we could fully embrace a moment with joy and focus on revealing the beauty of life’s simplest passage? 

We could create beautiful memories by being more present and attentive.

Paying Attention

When was the last time you felt intrigued?

You had an experience where your senses were totally attentive.

You were "in the moment".

Your Zen Beginner Mind allowed you to feel a childlike curiosity.

Remember your first time doing something you enjoyed, like driving? The freedom of screaming your lungs out as you sing to your favourite tune alone in the car.

Or a new dish you tried, made you contort with delight. You had the concerned look on your face as you tasted the suspiciously delicious food.

How long did it take before that felt normal, and perhaps you were not as fond?

Unfortunately for most of us, the intriguing feeling is fleeting because our mind is quick to wonder.

The result is you are not truly present to enjoy the bliss of living.

Over time, our senses become dull as we concede to live more in our minds and less in reality.

What is Mindfulness?

Between 400-500 B.C., the Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, created the foundation for Buddhism in India.

Awareness of the present moment is one of the core pillars of the Buddhist religion.

Mindful practice is believed to help attain a greater state of consciousness and brings its followers to enlightenment.

On the other hand, thinking yourself out of the present moment has been shown to produce toxic effects.

Small things like listening to your head/mind rather than the person speaking draw you away from the present moment.

When we try to focus on multiple things simultaneously, we strain our brains as we switch our attention back and forth.

Thinking about what is not happening has a knock-on effect that weirdly triggers the fight-or-flight stress response.

This reaction is part of our human nature "Yet, over longer time intervals, they exact a cost (allostatic load) that can accelerate disease processes…and, in some cases, atrophy of brain structures". [1]

The way I see it is that if you are not living in the moment, you are literally killing yourself.

Training your Mindful Muscle.

Meditation is a form of mindfulness. It's the act of bringing our attention back, over and over again, to one point of focus, which could be the breath or the body.

The practice allows us to control where we focus our energy.

I advocate for the practice, but sitting in silence seems too formal for many people and is not necessarily the best form of mindfulness.

My favourite form of daily mindfulness is eating and drinking, but you can choose any ritual.

Try this and see how it changes your state of mind:

Take your next cup of tea or coffee for example. Give yourself the time and space to bring your full attention to the moment.

Engage your five senses. Bring your awareness into the moment and become fully present in your body as you drink.

What are you feeling in your body? Check-in and embrace the experience.

The purpose is to drink the tea for the sake of drinking tea, without any other task in mind, no reading or pulling out your phone.

If it helps, you can imagine this is the first time you have ever truly appreciated a cup of tea.

You can use these informal moments, like eating, listening to music, walking etc., and train your attention to embrace and live more fully in the moment.

Bring curiosity to your experience like it is your first time, noticing the passing phenomenon rather than judging it.

Mindfulness will elevate the level of joy you experience day-to-day.

Adding attention to your daily rituals is one way to strengthen your minds ability to focus and be present in the moment.

"An intended result of mindfulness practice is that a mental orientation of mindfulness will develop toward daily events providing enhanced mental/emotional flexibility and clarity to deepening one's enjoyment of life and making one more skillful in facing life's challenges." [2]

Mindfulness is not feel good self-help advice. It is living fully, transitioning from a human doing to a human being.

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” -Albert Einstein

Experience Life

If you want to live more fully, it is worth adopting mindfulness as a practice.

So far, it seems to be working well for me, and I now actively enjoy my distraction-free walks.

Start with some basic rituals and feel how that changes your experience.

Quieting the mind is essential, but embrace the noise and also let your negative thoughts be exposed without judgement or expectation.

If you want to be calmer and joyful and remember more of your life, it is worth embracing the moment.

Mindful living is an appreciation for the process, and there is no finish line.

"By being mindful, we simply enjoy being alive, appreciate everything around us, and become more thoughtful about what we're doing." - Meggie Tran

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