Mindful Living: Filtering Your Focus
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an active and ongoing process of bringing yourself back. When you're sitting at work or school or on your yoga mat, and your mind starts wondering off: What's for lunch? Did I lock my car? What did she mean by that? Mindfulness requires you to catch yourself and bring your attention back to what is going on in the present moment - good, bad and boring.
Mindfulness is the practice of filtering your mind down to exactly what you are doing.
Most of us spend our days going through the motions, doing but not actually experiencing what's going on. You might complete projects, accomplish goals and go on excursions, without truly and fully partaking in the experience. You are aware, but only partially engaged. You may not even realize how disengaged you are. But if your mind is thinking about something else - anything other than what you are doing - you cannot possibly be FULLY engaged. If you're not fully engaged, you cannot possibly participate and perform to your fullest ability.
Practicing mindfulness can help you overcome two big obstacles to your optimization: mental absence and mental clutter. The two are relatively interchangeable, and it's important to address the two if you experience them often because both hinder your ability to perform to your highest potential. Aren't we all trying to reach our highest potential?
Do you ever leave the house, and ten minutes later you can’t remember - Did I turn off the coffee pot? Did I lock the door? Did I feed my dog?
I am sure you've experienced a time when you are reading a book or email or something, and at the end of the page you have no idea what it even said. Two, three, ten times later and you are still blank. Or you have been at work trying to finish ONE task for the last two hours - but nothing seems to get done. You CANNOT focus.
Mental absence is when your mind is distant or absent from what you are presently doing. While you are gathering your stuff and getting ready to leave for the next event, your mind is lost in conversation about your neighbor, last night's phone call from your mom, the proposal you have to make at work later today. You may be physically there locking the door (or whatever the case),but your mind is completely elsewhere. Take notice of how often you spend your time focused on something entirely outside of what it is your physically engaged in.
Mental clutter is exactly as it sounds. We clutter our minds with so much stuff - work stuff, school stuff, family stuff, friend stuff, secret stuff, stupid stuff. If we don't take the time to declutter or mind, it gets clogged up. Like anything else, if you jam up your mind with too much stuff, it will eventually fill and nothing else will be able to fit in there anymore. Concentration becomes near impossible. You actually diminish your mental ability when you allow too many things to bounce around the walls in there.
Think of your mind as a body of water. The more turbulent and thrashing the water, the less effect one drop will have. When the water is still and smooth, one drop can create a world of ripples and effect. It's the same idea with your mind and thought processing. Too many thoughts thrashing around in your mind will make it a lot more challenging for one idea or thought to reach it's fullest potential.
The only way to rid yourself of mental absence and mental clarity is to become aware and redirect your attention. Simple in concept but challenging in action. Understanding the two obstacles and their effects is an important first step. The 3 pillars help you fulfill and manage your progress in the practice of filtering your focus (see latest BLOG).
Living mindfully promotes growth, malleability and contentment.
All of us as humans have endless potential for growth. Mindfulness fosters your growth as a being. You become aware of where you can grow as well as how you can do it. As you learn to watch yourself without judgement or embarassment, you start to really see yourself and the product of yourself in the world. The more clearly you can see yourself, the easier it is to recognize those behaviors, habits and absurdities that don't align with who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world. Growth and self-betterment are natural by-products of mindful living.
As you grow, you'll naturally become more adaptable in life and less anxious or unnerved when change comes or plans don't go accordingly. Life is ever-changing and oscillating. We like to look for security and stability, but it just isn't practical. IT's like searching for solid ground, but there is only liquid to grab onto... Mindfulness encourages you to see recognize the fluidity of life. Accept and embrace endless change and inconsistency. There is no need to try to control - the only control we absolutely have is our ability to let go of all need for control.
Life happens now. Everything we can do, can only be done right now. Thinking about yesterdays and tomorrows is fruitless work. When you can accomodate this truth in your mind, you set yourself up for lasting comfort. Of course, you will have tasks to complete and work to carry out, but you know that all you can do is exactly what you can do right now. When your mind wanders off and leaves you longing for something else, mindfulness brings you back to reality. In this way, mindfulness encourages you to experience the magic of even the mundane. You'll begin to see more, understand more, and look closer at the world around you. When you're walking to work or school or the dog or spin class, leave your phone in your pocket (or better yet at home). Just to see. Maybe you'll notice trees where you hadn't before. Perhaps you'll even notice how intricate the texture of one leaf is on a tree; how the front and back are different colors, different patterns, different consistency. By now you might be like WTF is she talking about. But when you become more aware of the simplest parts of life, you become aware at how absolutely elaborate every single simple little thing really is.
When you live more engaged in what IS around you, instead of all that is NOT, you cultivate your own contentment.
All of this, just by learning to filter your focus :).