Is Mindfulness for Me?

It can sound absurd that anyone with a stressful career, infinite commitments, and any one of a number of religious orientations—including Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or no religion at all—can find meaning in mindfulness. 

After all, even if the exercise is beneficial, who has the time? We should immediately dispel the myth that mindfulness is time-consuming. It really saves time and can be done anywhere, in the blink of an eye. 

Mindfulness is the practice of paying deliberate, open, and curious attention to your physical, cognitive, and mental experiences. And, while it is a "art" that can be cultivated by a regular organized meditation session, you can simply practice it at any point of the day by remembering to be mindful of your current experience. You can learn to perform any of these tasks with a new state of consciousness, one that is free, interested, and nonreactive, by incorporating mindfulness into your life. 

You do not have to change your life in any dramatic manner to integrate mindfulness into your life—you always attend to your usual assortment of family, job, social, and leisure time activities—but you can learn to perform them with a different state of awareness, one that is accessible, curious, and nonreactive. Mindfulness may eventually lead you to change certain habits, particularly those that are dangerous to yourself or others, but it is not a self-help approach in the traditional sense. 

You are not seeking to transform who you are by practicing mindfulness; rather, you are attempting to become more truly present with your experiences—your body, emotions, and feelings, as well as their effect on your life. You'll definitely gain a greater understanding of yourself, learn to calm and detach from tension, and find a way to deal with the high-pressure situations you'll encounter. 

You will become more discerning about your emotions, emotions, and behavior as a result of your increased understanding, and this awareness may allow you a better ability to make a meaningful difference if you so choose. Charlie, a 38-year-old dockworker, explains: Mindfulness, I believe, makes me a happier father. It's not only that I'm able to listen to my children more, but it's also that I seem to value every minute I spend with them more than I have in the past. I don't take their time for granted any longer. I say, they're six and eight now, but they'll be in college before I know it, and... well, I get to enjoy them now.

There will be no more Everyday Automatic Pilot in You.

All of us lament the fact that we sometimes skip out on important aspects of our lives. My mother was so busy photographing my cousin getting his diploma at his college graduation that she did not see him accept it. Her only recollection of the event is fiddling with the camera. We aren't really present with what we're doing. We have no idea what we may or may not have just done, whether it was driving through town, cooking dinner, or doing something else. 

We prefer to recall disasters or extraordinary events, however most of everyday life—showering, food shopping, getting ready, and so on—seems to pass us by. This is what we would refer to as "automated life": You're functioning and getting things done, but it's as if no one is in control. You are practically wasting your life and you are not appreciating or doing anything at all. Have you ever climbed into your vehicle, then out of your car, and found you have no idea what happened in the interim? 

Mindfulness is an alternative to the monotony and disconnection that comes with living life on autopilot. You will counteract the spaced-out feeling you might have in the middle of the day by practicing mindfulness. You will learn to transform an everyday experience into something extraordinary by paying attention to it in the present moment. You are likely to become more "alive" when certain moments in your life take on exceptional qualities. Occasionally, sights and sounds seem to be more dominant, nuanced, and textured. 

Using mindfulness to your life will transform the way you handle everyday things and instill fresh energy and excitement. One of our mediation students expressed her dissatisfaction with walking her puppy. However, as she started to pay close attention, it became an entirely different experience. She was more at ease with her own skin, her senses heightened, and she saw her surroundings for the first time. She saw images of trees and flowers that she had never seen before. The scents tended to be more strong and varying. When she felt the sun on her skin, she felt at ease. She felt a deeper sense of appreciation and pleasure of things that she had previously avoided due to apprehension when she related to her present-moment experience. Her puppy, she believed, could feel the shift in her.

You may also want to read more about Mindfulness Meditation and Healing here.