When you are merely activity-driven, you are never present in the moment!
We met a young lady recently who is obese, has hypertension and complained of her inability to stay focused. As we sipped some filter coffee, she tucked into a badushah (a sweet doughnut!). But even before she had finished eating it, she had checked her phone a few times, she had looked around the café and exclaimed that her Life had become monotonous, predictable and dreary. She confessed that she is simply not able to prioritize and manage her time and tasks effectively; she wondered what she must be doing to fix her “poor attention span” problem.
Many people are in this young lady’s situation – grappling with their home and work schedules, unable to find time for themselves, coping with lifestyle-related challenges like diabetes and hypertension and, overall, just going through the paces of Life, never really being able to live it fully! There’s only one way such people can “re-invent” themselves. They have to learn to be mindful. It’s not a method, it’s an art – and it can be mastered with understanding and practice.
Mindfulness is the ability to just be, to be in the present moment. Many a time, we keep doing stuff – cooking, cleaning, driving, smoking or eating. We don’t concentrate on what we are doing. Our mind is elsewhere. Our activities then are just chores. Our actions are not mindful, they are really mindless, mechanical. Which is why we are unable to “see” that some of what we could be doing is “ruinous”. We know, for instance, that smoking is ruinous, over-eating is ruinous, not exercising is ruinous, worrying is ruinous. But we go on doing these things. Mindlessly. Which is why observing your own Life, and viewing it dispassionately as a third party, helps. When you observe yourself you will realize how mindlessly you go through your days. You simply are going through hurried motions. You are not present in any of your actions. You are merely activity-driven. You are never in the moment. For instance, you are working overtime to send your kids to school – but never pausing to celebrate and enjoy their innocence. You are rushing to finish your bath – but are never enjoying your body. You are eating in a rush – but are not tasting and relishing your food. You are texting away madly – but are never celebrating how much smaller the world has become thanks to Facebook and WhatsApp. You go on worrying endlessly – without realizing that worrying doesn’t solve any problem and only keeps you away from enjoying whatever you have! It is only by being mindful in each moment that you can really understand what about you needs to change.
Try a simple exercise in mindfulness. Make yourself a cup of green tea. And drink it patiently enjoying every sip. Feel the tea energize you as it enters your body. Don’t let your thoughts wander. Be focused on experiencing the tea travel within you. Examine how you felt while drinking it. This experience of being one with the tea, this feeling, is what mindfulness is all about. This is what is Zen. Practice this in everything that you do. When cooking, focus on the recipe and its preparation, on the aroma, on the taste! When driving focus on the road and the joy of navigation; if the traffic is messy, don’t complain, just soak in all that you observe and be grateful for your ability to see, to drive, to own a vehicle or simply to even be in a vehicle – compared to so many others who don’t have all that you do! When on Facebook, celebrate the opportunity to connect with the world, your world. Every time your mind wanders, to a past event and makes you feel guilty or to a future event and makes you anxious, bring it back to attend on whatever you are doing now. Remember the human mind is like the human body. It will resist any change first. But repeatedly bringing the mind back to focus on the present, you can train it to let go of the past and to not indulge in the future.
Please don’t treat this suggestion of the “green tea experience” as a one-off experiment in Zen. Every once in a while step aside from your Life and observe yourself. As a third party. You will then discover how much you have to change for your Life to change! Conversely, only when you are fully present in each moment, are you alive in it. It is only then that you are living the moment fully. When you live each moment fully, you will realize its value. And through this realization, you will be able to transform yourself – your priorities, your work, your health and your Life!
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