Mindfulness is such challenging practice! I mean simply living in the present moment is so demanding! We often and unconsciously focus on past events and worry about the future, but so few cherish all the little “nows”! Aren’t we just escaping from reality? What are we actually escaping from?
It’s always sort of funny for me to notice that every time I’m about to write a blog post, I’m confronted with the reality I need to talk about. Yesterday, I had this amazing inspiration for this blog post and yet, because I was busy doing other things, I totally did not take notes, not took the time to write. What happens now? I have half the ideas left … lol. But let me try to make this a mindful article … wink, wink!
Let’s start by explaining a little better what mindfulness is. It is basically a state of consciousness or an ability to be fully present to what we are doing, thinking, etc. It is often sought as a meditation practice in which we acknowledge all of our emotions, feelings, physical sensations, body parts, breathing, etc.
Mindfulness: When We are Fully Present!
But it is also more than that! There are seven key attitudes (read more here) of mindfulness. Let me share them here to better illustrate what it means to be fully present.
First is Non-Judgment: this means we are called to be impartial witnesses of our own experience and that of others without judgment.
Second is Patience: Let things unfold in their own time.
Third is Beginner’s mind: Always remain open and curious … never stop learning.
Fourth is Trust: Learn to trust yourself, events and feelings. It’s OK to make mistakes.
Fifth is Non-Striving: Be right here, right now … trust the process, let things unfold.
Sixth is Acceptance: See things as they are.
Seventh is Letting go: We are often trapped in feelings, frustrations, past events. Accept to let go.
Obviously, this is a short summary. My goal is not to explain in full details what mindfulness is, but rather to reflect on it and on what is keeping us from living it.
Mindfulness: Letting Go of the Past… Not Worrying About the Future!
Every time I try to focus on my goals, my ideals, my dreams, etc., I’m confronted with this one main enemy: fear! Why do I say it’s an enemy? Because fear will keep you from doing the things you really want to do. We postpone, renounce, give up … because we fear the outcome, or we fear the risks. But in fact, we often focus and worry about our future for no real reason. What comes to mind is the social philosopher Mark Twain’s quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Yet, notice how fear will not only keep you from doing things, but will also bring you back in the past. Holding on to the past is a bit of that victim culture I spoke about in my last post. If you can’t do anything to change it, why not just give up and learn from it?
Let me make you laugh or cringe with my experience. I grew up in the poor and violent neighbourhoods of Montreal. It was a rich experience that I still cherish today. Among those experiences, there are the negative ones. One of them was me trying to imitate my peers in steeling at Zellers (sort of Target back in the days). Obliviously, I was a bad robber… I had too much of a conscience and never tried to develop some crazy techniques I’ve seen out there.
All I really wanted were batteries for my portable CD player! I loved music and would keep listening to it, but my portable player was so hungry… I needed to feed him tones of batteries.
The story is very simple, I tried steeling the batteries and got caught. I felt horrible. I spent days thinking about it repeatedly again. I was trying to figure out what I could have done to make it work, not to get caught! I was terribly sad about getting caught and felt like such loser. But what was I holding on to? No matter how I’d think about it, I couldn’t change the past! I just needed to accept and learn from my mistakes.
Mindfulness: The Worst Enemy… Distraction!
It is already very demanding to let go of the past and not fear the future … but what about letting go of distractions? We spend so much time in various forms of distraction! I’m not insinuating that these are evil nor am I telling you to totally stop … but balance is probably key!
How many times did I skip my gym sessions because I spent too much time on social media? I can’t even recall … too many for sure … but hey I’m letting go! It’s the past… LOL!
Did you know that one of the main elements used by the Roman Empire to keep its conquered subjects in line was to distract them? Indeed, the empire had become so big that if ever there were to be a social rebellion, the emperor would definitely lose control! The solution was to give the population all they needed in terms of water and food, but also in distractions. The Colosseum is probably one of the best examples of that. Keep the citizens distracted and they won’t think of rebellion!
Aren’t we kind of numbed by social media? Aren’t we all dependant on it? What are we distracted from? I don’t know as a society … but I know that as individuals, many lose track of their lives and goals and become a mountain of desires dictated by our various platforms. We no longer appreciate what we are and have, we focus on what is missing!
Mindfulness: Seeing God in All Things!
Let me conclude with this key factor! I don’t know who your God is… I don’t know if he has a name or if you only believe in the universe. I don’t mind you believing what you believe, but allow me to insist on the importance of letting God or the universe guide you in your every step!
How? By being fully present to every encounter, every book, every post, every quote, every sign, etc. How many times do I unexpectedly meet God! Yes, it keeps happening and I’m not crazy! Well, I may be, but I don’t think it matters!
Let me tell you about my last encounter! It happened a few days ago. I was feeling down, lonely (subscribe to my blog so you can read this topic in my next posts). I decided to go for a walk in the little town of Italy where I am now temporarily living!
Suddenly, I met this weird woman, no judgment, but hey she was! She looked at me and asked me if I was another guy’s brother, to which I answered negatively. She kept going with an explanation about the guy. At that point, I felt annoyed. I did not care about the guy, and I really just wanted to walk.
So by nicely wishing her a good evening, I went my way. You need to know that old Italian towns are full of narrow streets and paths to go here and there. I decided to take a small path into the town as she kept going in another direction. Little do you know, after wandering around and going through all these streets, I met her again.
She then smiled at me and told me: “Don’t worry, don’t hold on to what you can’t control. When you think all doors are closed, another one opens. Life is always full of opportunities.”
At that point, I could have thought she was nuts! But you know what? I decided to believe it’s what I needed to hear! She brought my hopes and smiles back.
What do you think? Any similar experience? Don’t hesitate to share, comment and subscribe … always happy to read you guys as well.