Mindfulness has become a buzzword and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We live in a society that is focused on production, speed, multi-tasking, and efficiency. Don’t get me wrong, these things are helpful in some scenarios, like getting the job done in a timely manner and making a living. But living a life of constant activity and production is stressful and tiresome, not to mention anxiety producing. The fact that more people are interested in mindful living means we are finally acknowledging the need to slow down.
I don’t have time for mindfulness
I hear these responses a lot:
- “My job is too demanding…”
- “I’m working on a really important project at work right now…”
- “The way my mind runs in circles, I could never sit long enough to be mindful!”
- “My family is going through a transition period and I just can’t make the time…”
- “I prefer being busy over sitting in silence.”
In all honesty, I’ve given EVERY ONE of those reasons why I don’t have time to be mindful.
Some people think that mindful living means they have to meditate for 30 minutes a day, go on long hikes in the woods, or practice yoga. There is some truth that those examples are mindfulness practiced, but that’s not the definition of mindful living.
So, what is mindful living?
First, let’s simplify mindfulness into some basic ideas. Mindfulness is being aware of what you are thinking, feeling, or doing. When you are mindful, your mind is focused on what is going on from moment to moment. You are also directing your attention, in skillful ways, to the present. Acceptance of what you notice is key. To sum it up, mindfulness is any purposeful activity that increases awareness of your experience.
Imagine living this way. Every day when you get up, you experience the transition from sleep to waking. When you get ready, you are present and aware of the activities, instead of multi-tasking and distractions. Throughout the day, you notice what you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. As thoughts and emotions arise, you notice them without judgement and accept where you are in the moment. Rather than worrying about the future or being consumed with ruminating on past experiences, you stay in the moment.
Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s realistic to cut out multi-tasking, planning, and reflecting. There are good reasons to employ these skills. Still, everyone I know complains that there just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. And maybe that’s the point – we will never get it all done, so why not do the best we can while we enjoy the moment?
Mindful living gives you more time
Here’s an idea that took me a LONG time to embrace: taking time for mindfulness will actually give you more time for other things. Wait, what? Am I really saying that by slowing down, you can have more room in your life? YES!
The reason is, when I’m living a mindless life (constantly multi-tasking, over-producing, cramming in activities in my day, doing something while thinking about something else) there’s no room in my mind to notice what’s in front of me. Need some examples?
- I make more mistakes, which causes me to do things over.
- I can’t remember a conversation, so I have to ask someone for information again.
- I forget where I put my phone, so I spend unnecessary time looking for it.
- I ruminate about a confrontation with someone because I can’t accept it, so it takes up time as my mind is on the proverbial hamster wheel.
- I get anxious about an upcoming event and I can’t sleep, so I’m even more preoccupied with the future.
On the other hand, when I’m living a mindful life (being aware of my thoughts, feelings, actions with acceptance and purpose) I can live each day in the moment without unnecessary thoughts or re-dos. Would more examples be helpful here?
- I take my time to get things done right, avoiding doing something twice.
- I listen with presence so I hear instructions and details the first time.
- I know where to find my phone… or shoes… or car in the parking lot.
- When I have a tough conversation, I give myself time to pause, acknowledge my feelings, respond with alignment to my values, and move on.
- I take time to recognize what I need when approaching a stressful situation, and use my support system to process my apprehensions; I don’t beat myself up when I’m anxious.
If you are reading this, chances are you are a human living in a culture obsessed with fast-paced life. No one is perfect when it comes to mindful living. Yet, you really can take time to stop and smell the roses. And you’ll be better off for it!
If you want regular encouragement for mindful living, sign up for my email newsletter at sabbaticalvibrations.com. You might also be interested in registering for one of my mindfulness retreats to learn and practice additional mindfulness activities.