Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mind full, or mindful?

The other day I caught a short video on how they’re teaching kids in some schools in the U.K. some exercises in mindfulness, which were supposed to help them be calmer and thoughtful. The kids did admit that they liked what they were doing but I had to laugh when a boy was asked what exactly they were doing and he paused for a long while before he answered, “Um, I don’t really know.” I’m glad the experts see it necessary to teach mindfulness from an early age. These days when everyone is glued to their mobile devices, oblivious to what’s going on around them, we’ve probably got too much on our minds than is healthy for our bodies and souls.

Just like the little boy, I kind of know what being mindful is but wasn't too sure, so decided to look it up. Generally it means the state of being conscious or aware of something. But it also means focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. Hmm, I hadn’t thought of being mindful in that sense, but can see why the health experts are advocating it.

I guess that in a busy world, it’s easy to stop noticing everything around us. we forget what is going on inside and outside ourselves. Being self aware is a part of this mindfulness, being conscious of what we are thinking and feeling.

One way of looking at it is considering the opposite of mindfulness. It’s being mindless or behaving mindlessly. I’ve been guilty of behaving that way certainly. Rushing from home to work and back. Grabbing something to eat on the run. Watching whatever was on TV as a way to “relax”. I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing, I just wanted to get through the day.

I also tended to verbalize whatever thought popped into head without thinking, although lately I’ve tried to be mindful that my words have impact.  It’s become so prevalent these days when a tweet or posting can be composed within seconds and instantly it’s out there for the entire world to see. I do think we were more mindful in the good old days when we had to write letters and notes and send them via regular post in order to communicate.

When I sat down to actually put pen to paper, I would carefully craft my sentences, putting thought into the words I chose and my phrasing of them. Because somehow when words are written down on paper in ink, they seem more weighted and deliberate, not just 144 characters of wild ramblings and rants which can be deleted at the click of a button. So these days, I’m trying to be mindful of what I type on my computer, whether in an email or post.

I guess that one of the perks of being semi-retired is that I have more time to be mindful of everything, and not just tear around around each day trying to get through work and chores, worrying about finances and a million other things that crowd my brain. When I’m at the gym, I try to be mindful of what I’m doing to my body, slowly going into each crunch on the floor mat and feeling the burn in my core. I'm truly grateful for each aching joint and muscle because it means I'm still working them and they, in turn, are serving me well. When I eat something, I try to be aware of what I’m putting into my mouth and how it’s affecting my health.

Being aware of the present moment also helps me enjoy the world around me. Going about my daily life, I am more keenly aware of sensations like the taste of my food, a cool breeze while I’m gardening, the colours of my latest crochet project. These were things that I had taken for granted in the past and not been totally aware or appreciative of.

Just the other night, a young friend came over for a chat in the afternoon and stayed on till dinnertime. She suggested getting dinner delivered and if I were rushed for time, I would have concurred. But nothing on the menu piqued my interest so I said I would whip up a simple dinner. There’s always something in my fridge that can be rustled up into a meal and it took about half an hour to get a pot of chicken rice cooked with some stir-fried vegetables on the side. It was truly satisfying to chow down on a  home-cooked meal!

My friend remarked that she envied my life but I laughed and said that it took me a long time to get to where I am today. Right now, I can afford to be mindful of everything I do. Remaining centered on myself, my mind and body, I feel calmer and more grounded, enjoying what I do even if it’s quickly whipping up a simple dinner!

The following list is a bit rude in parts but it really brings home what we're supposed to do when we want to be mindful - not let our mind be so crowded with all kinds of thoughts but concentrate on just one thing at a time.

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