A few months ago, on one of my usual hectic mornings to get out of the house, I attempted to heat up porridge in the microwave whilst I faffed about doing kitchen duties. I had a lot going on that day, plus a lot going on in my life at the time.
I shoved the bowl in, slammed the microwave door, punched the numbers in, pressed the COOK button and then spun around to do some dishes. But seconds later, I realised that I had not punched the numbers required for cooking my porridge for the two required minutes but rather punched the PIN number of my VISA card into the microwave.
I don’t know what was more scary; the thought of what my microwave would have looked like after cooking a small bowl of porridge for over six thousand (and something) seconds, or how automatically I did that without thinking about what I was doing.
This is a good example of what one would call having a mind-full. Which is quite the opposite of what I want to draw your attention to, which is being ‘mindful’. Both sound the same, but one is good for you, the other, not so much.
Needless to say my porridge PIN number incident got me thinking about myself and how I need to start becoming more mindful of my mind-full. I teach it to my clients all the time, but in recent months, with increasing things going on in my life, I had neglected to do it myself. If a psychologist trained in being mindful has forgotten to be mindful – god only knows what other people who don’t know about mindfulness are doing.
You have probably come across the word ‘Mindfulness’ around the place of late. You have most likely seen the adult colouring books in shopping centres, the books and apps on it, and the courses on it. It seems to have burst onto the scene, yet ‘being mindful’ is not a fad.
You don’t need to spend heaps of money nor convert to Buddhism to do it. We have always had the ability, but I think many of us just forgot how to do it (or ‘be it’ for that matter). Including myself at times.
You may be wondering why so many people seem to be banging on about it, and how you could perhaps start doing some of it. In fact, some of you are probably wondering what mindfulness actually is.
Mindfulness is being in the moment. Sounds easy enough, but boy do most of us not do it well.
In a world that seems to be getting busier and more complicated, many of us spend our time physically in the present, but thinking about the past or worrying about the future. So, technically we are not living in the now.
It can also mean what is happening in your ‘now’, is getting done in a bit of a half arse way. That might mean your work (writing a report but thinking about the fight with your partner); your family (playing with the kids but worrying about the bills); and your relationships (cuddled up to your partner, but worried about them possibly leaving you in the future) are being affected because you are not ‘there’.
So mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment. If a thought wanders into your brain during that moment that is not required, then you allow it to pass without entertaining it in anyway. You don’t engage the thought, you accept it and just let it float through, and then go back to what you were doing.
For example, when you are at work you are engaged in the task you are doing; when you are playing with your children, you are actually engaged in the game playing with them; when you are cuddling your partner you are enjoying the closeness of being with them.
And when you attempt to cook something in the microwave, you actually type in the correct about of time required to heat the food up (as opposed to your banking details).
Mindfulness allows your body to rest and get back to a balanced state. It gives you a chance to not be bombarded by stress triggers from the past and what could happen in the future.
In allowing your body to be attentive to the moment, you are likely to become more in tune with yourself and more accepting of your own thoughts and emotions. It causes a greater sense of personal wellbeing and this has a positive flow on effect to other areas of your life, like increased productivity at work, increased creativity and better relationships.
Nothing but good can come from this mindfulness business!
So if you are being truthful to yourself – are you mentally in the moment at some point during your day? If you are not, can you start? Whether you take time out for 20 minutes of meditation, or maybe it is just focusing on the task at hand, there are ways that you can be mindful every day.
To tell you the truth, like changing any habit, it is often difficult, particularly when you don’t normally do it. But the more you practice, mindfulness becomes easier and easier to develop and ‘being’ in the moment will become your new normal.
You never know, you might enjoy the present, or your porridge for that matter.