A few years ago, a friend of mine shared that every year, in place of a New Year’s resolution, he chooses one personally meaningful word (a theme in essence) to help direct the 365 days ahead of him. I loved the idea and so, followed suit. “Go”, “Forgive”, “Fearless”, and “Stay”, are a few of the verbs I have embraced in the past.
This year, I choose a new word: “Mindfulness”.
Defined by Oxford Dictionary as:
(noun): A mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.
In short: “mindfulness” is being intentional about being conscious of the present moment. Mindfulness means, “being physically, mentally, and emotionally present right now”.
I talk about mindfulness quite a bit with my patients. When I lead groups, I often begin with raising my arm, pointing at my wristwatch, and saying:
“it is 9:00am on [current month, day, and year]. By the time I finish this illustration and put my arm down, it will most-likely be 09:01am on [current month, day, and year]. We will never repeat 9:00am on [current month, day, and year] again. Knowing that, what are we going to do about it?”
Let’s be transparent: we are all guilty of being much too concerned with what has already happened and what has yet to occur. Some of us are even trapped living in the past or living in the future. If you haven’t already heard this today, let me be the first to remind you:
You live in the right now.
We are living in the right now.
We have 51 weeks left in 2018. How are we capitalizing on the opportunity for the right now so that every moment counts? We must ask ourselves, are we actually living in this moment or are we physically present but mentally and emotionally somewhere else?
Here’s the truth:
We can only control the controllable.
We can’t change the past. As of right now, we can’t jump into a time machine, go back in time, and change what has already happened. Surely, many of us wish we could. I know sometimes I do but the harsh reality is, the past is the past. As for the future, it is unknown or, as famously sung by Natasha Bedingfield, “the rest is still unwritten”! It is okay to be a little anxious about what has yet to come but more importantly, we must first remember where we are. We have the ability to shape and create the unknown if we first focus on the moment we are currently in. The key is to remember we can only control ourselves and that includes being aware and conscious of right now.
So let me ask you:
We will never experience this moment ever again. Regardless of where you read this, and who you are with, are you really physically, mentally, and emotionally present? Now being aware, what are we going to do about it? Remember, we don’t just give time to something – we have to take time away from something else.
What are we taking time away from to give time to?
Are we present?
For me, 2018 is all about mindfulness. What might this look like?
1. Staying in the present moment
An example? We all know if our phone is in our hands, we’re not giving 100% attention to whatever else is around us. Hitting the silent button on my phone when catching up with family and friends over coffee is how I’ll be staying in the present moment. In fact, let me be a little more intentional and keep my phone out of sight. The distraction is gone, now to focus on the individuals right in front of me.
2. Accepting we can only control the controllable
An example? For me, that means trusting in God and His plan. Sometimes, things just happen. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so much. But embracing the mindset that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we think actually brings me peace. I may not have control over every single thing but I do have control over my actions and reactions to situations and circumstances.
3. Finding and appreciating the beauty and the lesson of the moment
What does this look like? There is beauty in everything. At least I think so. Then again, as they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Regardless, some of the most beautiful works of art were created amidst vulnerability and pain. Others were created amidst overwhelming joy and conviction. Truth be told, even broken pieces of pottery can be mended with gold. There is undeniable beauty and power in the broken if we choose to pick up our broken pieces and see what we can do with them.
4. Practicing mindful meditation
What does this look like? At times it may look like me wrapped in a cozy blanket at home reading a book. Most times, it will look like me standing amidst the scurry of a busy work day and changing my breathing while slowly releasing my clenched fist into a flattened palm. Then repeating over and over again. My eyes might be closed but there’s a good possibility they’ll remain open so people don’t mistake me for having fallen asleep standing up. I may even look as though I’m zoning out for a few minutes. No worries, I’m just trying to remind my brain and my body that I’m present in the now.
What does practicing mindfulness mean to you?
Do you have a word you’d like to use to help guide your 2018?
Stay encouraged. Stay present. Practice mindfulness.
Here are a few useful resources on practicing mindfulness and mindfulness meditation: