Yesterday, I wrote about how I discovered the practice of mindfulness. Today, I want to share how I use this practice in everyday living to make life beautiful, even in my darkest hours.
Mindfulness is the game you always win, just by thinking about it (unlike the game I just made so many of you lose). Sorry about that. If you’re confused, you can follow the hyperlink and become an eternal loser, or ignore it if you’d rather just stay confused.
Now, back to becoming an eternal winner!
Within my current moment, there lies two cats on my bed and a small Shitzu Maltese puppy cuddled up next to me, in my oversized brown leather chair. The puppy just jumped down and ran off to see what ruckus is going on outside my room.
Without thinking of mindfulness, I can look at this moment with an infinite number of judgements about why the puppy ran off while the cats didn’t stir at all in response to the noise outside my door. I have no emotional response to the puppy leaving, but if I did I might get worked up over a judgment like, "Everyone always leaves me." Or, more likely, I might think about how much lazier cats are than dogs. Or, I could wonder what kind of trouble the puppy will get into this time.
If, however, I remember my mindfulness practice, I can reframe the scene by noticing only sensations and facts. This will bring me out of my head and into my body. This might look something like me noticing the absolute stillness of my tabby, resting with his head on my pillow. Then, I can notice that his stillness is not absolute, because I can see the rise and fall of his orange-striped furry belly as he breathes. Or, I could notice how quickly the puppy went from his own complete stillness, to bounding off my chair in response to the noise.
This is a benign example, but it can be applied to situations where I would have an emotional response and might need to get back into a more reasonable state of mind. It actually can be applied to any situation, regardless of what my mental state is. I use mindfulness as often as I think of it, because it always adds to my moments. Most of the time, it makes my moments feel better and other times it helps me cope with whatever pain or stress I’m faced with.
Sometimes mindfulness is confused with meditation. I think that’s because mindfulness is often used during meditation. The difference is that meditation is more about focusing on one thing at a time for extended periods, where mindfulness can, and should, be used even when doing tasks that require attention to jump from one place to another quickly. For instance, when I drive I choose to be mindful of everything going on around me.
Last year, I learned to drive a city bus. Nothing has ever taught me to be more mindful than when I was behind the wheel of such a powerful and dangerous vehicle. I was taught to constantly scan from side to front to side, at least every five seconds. I was being constantly mindful of the cars all around me, as well as pedestrians and other possible hazards. I also had to be mindful of my speed and my ability to break softly so I didn’t give any of my passengers motion sickness.
It was easy to be mindful while I was learning to drive a bus. I think it would have been impossible for my mind to wander, anyway. However, driving my car is a different matter. The actions have long since become automatic, and I start thinking about dinner plans and forget to watch for speed limit changes and drivers in my blind spot. Now, though, I’m a much safer driver thanks to Denver’s public transportation system.
Moving on, I’ll conclude with a list of other practical uses for mindfulness. Mindfulness can be used:
- While doing anything you don’t want to do. It’s easier to stay positive washing dishes when you’re focused on the warmth of the water and the feel of the suds on your skin.
- To enhance positive moments. Try it the next time you drink your favorite beverage.
- To prevent mistakes. You’re much less likely to spill milk when the only thing you’re focused on is pouring milk into your cup.
- To calm you when emotions are intense. I find it’s even more effective when I describe my surroundings to myself. "I’m laying on my bed and I feel the bed under me. The blanket is yellow and feels smooth on my skin."
What other uses for mindfulness can you think of? Let me know in the comments section below.
I hope you found this article useful. Thank you for reading and have a wonderfully mindful day!