I’m sure many of you have heard of this concept of mindfulness. I first heard of it when I was in graduate school and I read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. (He was, at least at the time, in charge of the stress management program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and he is one of those really cool guys who hyphenated his last name when he got married .) Mindfulness is really being in the moment. Not in the past, not in the future, simply in the present. Taking in the present moment with all your senses. For instance, in this moment, what do you see in front of you and with your peripheral vision? Are there any sounds that you hear? Are you aware of any body sensations? Do you smell anything? And, if you are eating, what do you feel or taste on your tongue?
I’ve known about this concept for decades. And, there can be a big difference between knowing about something and actually practicing it. I jokingly said to my friend recently: “I’d remember about mindfulness about every five years, and then forget about it again.” Obviously, that is an exaggeration, and I did have a really hard time remembering to be mindful! And then all of a sudden about a month ago, I was reminded of mindfulness again, and the concept just clicked. I was mindful a lot more often, and discovered what everyone’s been talking about: it really can make life so much more pleasant.
William Shakespeare, in Hamlet, was on to something when he wrote;”There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” If you think about it, that’s true. Take flowers, for example. Normally, most people are happy when someone gives them flowers, right? And, what if the flowers are at the funeral of a loved one? Would most people be happy in that situation? Maybe yes; probably not. Although, the flowers haven’t changed. Flowers just are. What changes is a person’s perception of them. A person percieves flowers, or anything at all, according to their thoughts about the flowers. “That was really nice of George to give me those flowers” versus, say: “These flowers are going to die, just like my grandmother.”
It is the same with mindfulness. If we are practicing mindfulness, there is a kind of neutrality present. It is simply being senstively aware of what is happening in each moment. No thoughts, therefore, to judge something as “good” or “bad”.
What if we trained ourselves gradually to go around our whole lives in mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn says that’s what he does. And he sounds like he is blissfully happy just about all the damn time- just sayin’. Maybe doing the laundry wouldn’t be so “bad” if done mindfully. Or, washing the dishes. Or making that commute to work. And, what if we were mindful during S.E.X., instead of thinking about the grocery list? Or while interacting with our children? What gifts would we then receive?
I invite each of you to practice some mindfulness today. And, please write to me about your experience when you do!