Where do you spend most of your time each day? I don’t mean physically… I mean, where’s your head? Turns out, to be happy there’s only one place to be.
Each day and night streams in and out at a fixed 24 hours, and yet the older you become, the smaller that 24 hours is relative to your entire life’s experience.
My niece is nine. “Nearly 10”, she says. Each day is a larger part of her overall experience than is mine.
But, here’s the thing – the perception of time passing quicker will only happen if you ride the waves of time. What I mean by “riding the waves of time” is that your focus is on its coming and going, on where it came from and where it’s heading. You ride the wave by either placing your attention back in time (memories), or forward in time (projection).
Both places are a waste of time; moreover, neither place is a happy place.
The past is gone and no longer exists. It’s unlikely you can even reach back there and accurately relive what happened, because most of us embellish things, good or bad, rather than remembering what actually happened.
The future has yet to be and doesn’t exist either. You can spend time fantasizing or worrying about what will come, but whatever emotions that evokes, it comes at the cost of not actually being here, being right where you are, right here where all your power exists.
You have no power to reconstruct the past, only to learn from it, and most of us have already mined whatever we’re likely to retrieve from the past.
You have no power to construct the future by spending so many dreamy or fearful hours there. Sure, it’s useful to visualize what you want to happen, but only if that’s your mindful intent and you apply a steely focus to this discipline. But flitting back and forth between what you’re doing now and some imagined future is not empowering.
So, if yesterday is illusive and bereft of power, and tomorrow is illusionary and powerless, you’re left with only one other option:
There’s value in being present. It’s a powerful place to be. Everything get done here. All your being is here.
According to the experts, “here” is where happiness lives.
Recently, I read three articles:
· Nikki Allen wrote about the benefits of being present.
· Stephen Guise wrote about ways to be happy.
· Carolyn Gregoire wrote about slowing down time.
What these articles had in common was the concept of “Mindfulness”.
Surely, there is a hundred ways to describe mindfulness, and I know a few. My favorite is that simple turn of phrase attributed to Ram Dass over 40 years ago, and memorialized in his book:
I think that Carolyn Gregoire would subscribe to this notion. In her article, she reported that,
“According to neuroscientific research recently highlighted by Inc. Magazine, how the brain perceives time passing determines whether our days feel luxuriously long, or short and harried — and it’s something that we have a certain level of control over. By paying attention and actively noticing new things, we can slow time down.”
Ms. Gregoire goes on to say that the essence of mindfulness is not to do more, but to notice more. Look around, take it all in, and suddenly the only place you’re at is “here”.
Stephen Guise’s article focuses on “happiness”. He reports on six unconventional, scientific ways to be happier in this Lifehacker article. They may be scientific, but only unconventional to the extent that you don’t know about them, for they’ve all been practiced for millennia. (Go see if you agree.)
To my mind, these six ways to be happier distill down to being mindful, which cannot happen without being present, a place that is nowhere but “here”.
So, in effect, Carolyn and Stephan can join hands and start chanting “Be Here Now”. Soon to join them will be Nikki Allen, who provides us with eight ways to live mindfully every day.
1. Be aware of your surroundings. While you’re walking, standing or sitting, be aware of the nature, people and architecture that surrounds you.
2. Meditate. Set aside a time each day to sit still and focus on your breathing. When thoughts arise, try to simply view thoughts as thoughts, rather than judging them as positive or negative.
3. Practice listening to others. Mindfulness can help us really listen more fully to what others are saying, by being present and attentive to their words.
4. Express kindness. Make a point of expressing gratitude and appreciation of others; this will help to keep you in the present experience.
5. Be still and dedicate some time to doing nothing and just ‘being’. As more and more of our time is filled with emails, texts, social media and entertainment, periods of silence and time alone brings respite.
6. Slow down. Try to do just one task at a time, and eat slowly, taking time to appreciate the food you are feeding your body.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When we hold on to anxiety, it makes it more difficult to live within the moment. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, then let them go.
8. Make everyday tasks and chores a meditation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as drudgery, but actually they are good ways to practice mindfulness and can make great daily rituals.
Be Still, My Mantra
I like #5 most of all, “be still.”
(How bout you? Let us know in the Comments below.)
Maybe I like it most because this has been an oft-used mantra of mine for many years.
Whenever I’m frazzled, I turn to it. I like how the phrase is both a command and an entreaty to still not just the body, but also the mind.
Still the body from popping up and down, scurrying to and fro. Still the mind from reaching back, or stumbling forward.
Be still, or as Ram Dass would put it:
Be Here Now.
After all, dear reader, where else?
Published on July 30, 2013