Mindfulness, Part 1: Becoming Aware
For me, it started with prayer. Prayer has always been a challenge for me. A challenge to spend time with God, focusing on Him entirely. Maybe amazing saints pray for three hours a day on their knees in the snow.
But not me. Five minutes into my devotional thoughts, I’m planning dinner or worrying about paying the bills.
Thankfully, I’m becoming more aware of how my mind behaves. It seldom stays present. The moment in which my body sits finds my mind racing ahead to the future. Or wandering off to the past.
Ah, yes, the heat on my lips on this cold winter day. Now that toasty Italian roast flavor mixes with the sugar and cream and…
Three minutes later, I’ve planned half the day and become mired in angst about how little I got done yesterday. On top of that, I heap recriminations on my brain for its inability to stay focused.
Do you mind?
- Have you ever driven your car for miles but forgotten the entire journey due to an inward conversation?
- Have you ever started to work at your desk and then “come-to” half an hour later, your mind a thousand miles away?
- Have you ever had an entire argument with someone within the narrows of your own headspace?
In this series of articles on Mindfulness, I will explore the basics of becoming more conscious. Also, I will share resources for diving a little deeper. Whether dipping your toe in the water or renewing your practice, you can follow me on this path to gaining more awareness and to finding a bit more peace.
Fear Not: The Tool of Meditation
Meditation is a bad word in some circles. I absorbed the notion that we open ourselves up to nefarious influences when we meditate. But this practice is not about emptying the mind. Rather it is about learning to observe how full of ideas our heads really are.
It’s like leaving your front-row seat in the movie theatre to watch the show from the wall at the back. You see the drama and the audience at the same time. In other words, you become aware that there’s a show going on rather than being caught up in it.
Let’s face it, these minds of ours can take us places we need not go. Our thought patterns carve deep ruts into which fear seeps, flooding our bodies with stress and tension. Awareness of our mental gymnastics can create space for disengaging with all of the places our worries try to take us. Eventually, we gain our footing and can stay longer in the present moment.
Practice Make Progress
We can practice becoming more mindful. Here’s a sample meditation. Set aside 10 minutes and find a comfortable spot.
- Sit with closed eyes
- Focus on your breathing and notice what it feels like, in your nose or in your chest
- When your mind drifts to thinking, smile and focus again on your breathing
- When you notice your mind has drifted again, smile and return to your breath
- Engage in this practice every day for a week
What’s key to practicing mindfulness is remembering that your goal is not to stay focused on your breath for a solid ten minutes. To some extent, you measure your progress by how often you notice your drifting into thought. Success is returning and returning again to the breath.
Meditation and Mindfulness have been my go-to tools lately. As I practice becoming aware of how my mind works, I pick up on the messages my inner voice whispers:
“If you make the wrong decision, it’ll be a disaster!”
“Nothing’s ever going to change, things’ll only get worse.”
Have you ever noticed how mean you can be to yourself? You wouldn’t say things like, “You are such an idiot!” to a friend, would you?
For me, learning to focus and notice what I’m thinking is a Godsend. This awareness lets me decide to follow a train of thought or jump off that thing before it wrecks me.
I hope you’ll give it a try. Leave a comment below and let me know how it’s going.