As the days continue to unfold, however, and 45 degrees becomes the new cold, we realize that it doesn’t take long for the newness to wear off. Think of any new relationship, recipe, or pair of shoes. We get pretty comfortable pretty quick. Highlighted by our gratification-centric society, we tend to always be on the search for something better or more exciting. Missing most of our lives as we have bland recognition of our daily routine, we focus on the extremes - what was truly fantastic or what was incredibly uncomfortable. Roughly 80% of our lives are made up of habits and routine, from waking up and having our coffee to our nighttime ritual. Same thing, day in and day out.
Not to fear! Spring is the perfect time to start embracing the aliveness in each moment and see that every day is important and new. One way of maintaining this perspective is to develop a mindfulness practice; engaging with the moments of our life with openness and unbiased awareness. Like a curious scientist, mindfulness asks us to pay attention to what is actually happening, to observe the inside (how we are feeling, any sensations, the quality and quantity of our thoughts), to notice the outside (how we are interacting with others, what shiny objects are grabbing our attention), and to do so without judgment of right or wrong, like or dislike. It’s stepping back from how we habitually engage with situations to become a calm observer. All of this helps to make decisions that are more complete and substantial, that support our true desires.
Our mind’s habits are very deep in typically drift to thoughts of things that haven’t yet happened (will our child have a good day at school and do well on the test) or to things that have already happened and can’t be changed (the interaction with our spouse that left us feeling uneasy or incomplete). With mindfulness, we maintain attention on the present moment with as much neutrality, curiosity, and unbiased view as we can muster. In this way, we are always creating fresh moments and offering things to unfold more naturally. We aren’t entangling them with how we think they should be, with pressure of what we like and don’t like.
Just think of your child coming home completely challenged by the school day. Instead of getting anxious yourself, overstepping what’s needed by trying to fix, or continuing his overwhelm by asking too many questions, you slow your energy down as you notice you are getting anxious. You then turn to simply listen to him with open ears and heart. You hear the pain in your child’s voice, you don’t try to fix his situation, and you remain a calm and grounded force. He feels heard, relieved, and more settled in simply having expressed himself. All of this might also offer him the space to figure out how to handle his challenge on his own, leaving him feeling confident and empowered.
Mindfulness sounds pretty fantastic, right? So how do we stay in the moment and not get carried away by our usual modes of operation? Like anything else that’s new, it takes practice, patience, and effort (and throw in a lot of self-love). We first need to slow down... stop... breathe. Take a few breaths now. Breathe deep and slow, in and out, with no rushing or needing the moment to be filled with anything else. Settle in and notice what’s there for you....in your body (physical tightness, tiredness, aches, heat, vibration) and in your mind (thoughts, worries, projections, planning). As you breathe and notice, step back from the busy “Doer” and let yourself simply rest in observation of yourself. Notice your experience in this moment, perhaps paying attention to the breath as a soothing focal point. Right here is the most important place to be, the first step in getting grounded in Now. Then move onto the things and situations around you. Can you look at the familiar with fresh eyes, without expectation of how they normally are?
We change our life one step at a time, through each opportunity and moment that arrives. With a few extra seconds spent in authentic awareness, we can get to know ourselves, our world, and all the interconnected pieces much better. We can squelch our mindless approach to the day’s 80% repetition, and allow discernment to rise and reactions to slow for the other 20%. Creating space for new buds to blossoms, the uniqueness of each moment peaks its head like bright spring flowers. Enjoy and stay in Peace!!
Peace and Many Blessings!
Mindfulness & Stress Management Coach
This article was originally published in FrontBurnerMama Magazine, April 2014