Taking Time to be Mindful
L. Kevin Johnson & Donna Philippe-Johnson
How often have you felt overwhelmed and burdened
with responsibility, not having enough time to do the things you need or want to
do? It is a common complaint in contemporary America, one that may leave many of
us feeling anxious or frustrated. Living life in a rush often leads to
unpleasant consequences, everything from ill health to depression, financial
insecurity to unsatisfying relationships. Most of us would like to have more
time for ourselves, but the fact is we only have 24 hours in a day. How can we
make more time? Believe it or not, the answer is simple, surprisingly simple –
By giving attention to the present moment our relationship to time becomes less
problematic, and then we have a greater sense of spaciousness from which to
express ourselves creatively. This is not as crazy as it sounds. The secret to
having more time is by increasing the quality of your life. And this is achieved
by practicing mindful attention each moment.
Suppose for example, that you have to leave for an important meeting and you only have 15 minutes to get showered and dressed. If you are like most Americans you’ll probably rush like crazy, frantically going through the motions at a quickened pace, worrying all the while about being late. You may get ready on time but you will probably be left feeling irritable and stressed afterwards. You could, however, approach the same 15 minutes with mindfulness. Instead of mentally rushing about, you just do whatever you have to do - go through the exact sequence of events, from showering to getting dressed, only you do it with relaxed focus and attention. Of course it may initially take some practice. Undoubtedly, you have probably developed strong habits of not paying attention to the present moment, and so it will require some willingness and effort to develop. If you work with mindfulness you may eventually discover, as we have, the nurturing benefits of staying true to the present moment and wanting that above all else.
Mindfulness is a skill anyone can develop, and is a practical way to ground ourselves in true reality. It requires that we pay attention to our bodies, wherever we find ourselves, and learn to sense, listen and look at things as they are happening now. It really is quite simple. As we do this we begin to understand how easy it is, but we also realize how easy it is to forget!
Stop right now, look around you and listen gently to the sounds going on in this moment. Listen with full attention. Listen to what is happening with your whole body for just a few seconds… can you hear it? Can you sense that everything echoes the song of life! You are part of it all. You are part of the whole, perfect process of life as it is unfolding right now. This is the doorway to eternity, the still, present moment of experience. The more you practice this, the clearer you will see that time is nothing more than units called “moments”. And these separate, momentary bits of time are your true reality. It is the place where you actually live in the universe.
Unfortunately, most of us live life somewhere else. We live in fantasy, not at all in this eternal, still moment. Instead, we live in our projections, past thoughts and memories, and in anticipation of the future. Most of the time real life escapes our awareness. Our egos are continuously linking together memories and images into meaningful events, consequently forming a string of opinions and thoughts into the mirage we call “my life.” This is the trick that time plays on us. Though it seems real, in actual truth, we only exist here and now. Fundamentally, we are nothing more than an endless moving stream in an endless moving stream. This expanded realization is something anyone of us can experience at any time.
What makes practicing mindfulness so beneficial is that it enables us to minimize tension and stress. The reason many people feel so unhappy is because they are caught in a whirlwind of wanting and desire – craving anything and everything in order to relieve anxiety, boredom and dissatisfaction. One of the symptoms of this deep unhappiness comes in the feeling that we “don’t have enough time,” or in some cases - such as the elderly - a feeling like we have “too much time on our hands.” Either way the problem is the same and the simple solution is to give more attention to the practice of being in the present moment. When we are bored with what is happening, we need only look deeper and more closely at things.
This knowledge is nothing new. It has been known for thousands of years. And when we get to the place in our lives where we want only to be mindful and awake right now, we may very well begin to experience and understand what Herman Hesse wrote in his classic book, Siddhartha, “…the world is perfect at every moment.”
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