Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Too often in our society we favor spending time in the past or future than in the right here and now. What is the cost? Habitual rumination on regrets into the past will sap your energy and open the doors for a barrage of self judgment that will keep you from living the life you want. Letting your mind cycle over worries about the future or potential catastrophes will leave you tense and potentially with a good case of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). So many of us have so many imaginary troubles in life, most of which never happen. Learning how to be more present in day to day life is the process of falling awake, gently letting go of our giant self critics, and opening our eyes to the reality of what is really happening, right here, right now.
What would happen if instead of thinking about all the plans you had to catch up on while you were in the shower, you took a pause, and then brought your nose to the smell of the soap…and again, just exploring the scent of it with your nose…What would happen if you then brought your attention to just feeling the sensation of the warm water against your skin and the feeling of goose bumps that might be there from the contrast of coming in from the cold? Oh…then the mind drifts back again about who you need to call at work, why are you doing this stupid practice, the upcoming meetings, when you need to pick up your kids, what you need to buy for dinner, as you begin to speed up and the tension mounts. What would happen if you noticed this, said to yourself “there goes my mind again”, and then brought your attention back into the shower where you were right now. How might your experience be different? How might your mood be different when getting out of the shower? Would you be more or less reactive with your family, roommates, or whoever you came in contact with next?
You might say, this sounds too simplistic, and the answer is yes it is, and that is exactly the point. Our minds are so complex and they are so well practiced at doing all day. Doing is important, but too much of it keeps us in a cycle of imbalance and stress. Even if we’re just sitting there resting or taking a shower, the mind is already doing. Taming our minds and teaching it the practice of being takes time, determination, and effort. But the dividends are invaluable as it gives you your life back.
Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. When practicing, when the mind wanders off or is quick to judge, just notice that as normal, let it be, and gently guide your attention back to whatever you’re paying attention to in that moment. You can do this while in the shower, folding your clothes, taking a walk, listening to your children, or even intentionally planning for the future. What do you notice? You may open yourself up to a whole new world. Try one today!
As always, please share your comments, insights, and questions below. Your additions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.