How often do you find yourself experiencing your experiences? That’s a funny question. The only way to experience an experience is of course to experience it. Duh. Try to dig a little deeper. Take, for example, your walk in to work/ class today. You may have driven to work, taken the bus, rode your bike, walked, or caught a Lyft. Do you remember entering the building? Do you remember noticing the people you passed by or the smell of the air? What do you remember from your walk into work or school today? Take a second to try and recall.
What did you come up with? I can tell you that the only thing I remember about walking in to the University building today was how much I was already sweating. I was meant to be printing off questionnaires twenty minutes before and I was paying no attention to what was around me. Usually as I walk to the school building I don’t notice much beyond how annoyed I am that the wind or rain is slapping my face. So, if you struggle to recall who you saw or how your skin felt in your coat as you walked inside, don’t worry you are not alone.
The beauty is that YOU, I, WE have the power to change the way that we interact with our lives by practicing skills that allow us to become more present and to be more in tune with the way we experience our experiences. This practice is known as Mindfulness. When we practice mindfulness we allow ourselves to focus on the present moment, to become aware of aspects we tend to miss or find unimportant, and to in the process be kind to ourselves and approach these experiences with as little judgment and as much objectivity as possible. I know, it may sound a bit wacky and strange. Maybe it seems like a waste of time and energy that could be spent doing something more productive, like idk, say Facebook? Maybe you think it is a load of bull that won’t actually enhance your livelihood or circumstances. To those in this camp, I would just encourage you to try it and see. Furthermore, research stands behind the therapeutic, relational, mental health, and lasting neuronal benefits of practicing mindfulness. So, why not stop the monotony or turbulence of a day, even if just for a few minutes, and take a second to try it out? Mindfulness can be practiced in many different settings and ways and it can be as simple as sitting in a chair and spending time tuning in to each of your senses.
Try this: Find a comfortable seat, place your feet on the ground, and if comfortable close your eyes. Begin to focus on the pattern of your breathing, not in order to change it, but just so that you might recognize how it is happening. Now, bring your attention to your sense of hearing. Notice the sounds around you. Do you hear water or cars? Are the sounds near or distant? Do you hear movement of bodies shifting in their chairs? Sounds are not always external. Sometimes sounds are internal. You may hear your own breathing or your stomach. Try to focus on what you are hearing. If your mind begins to wander, that is ok. Be gentle with yourself and try to focus back in on your hearing. Notice the different sounds. Do you hear anything new that you normally don’t notice? These sounds are not good or bad – they just are. Be kind to yourself.
As you move through a mindfulness exercise you can then begin to focus on different senses like your experience of touch, taste, smell and seeing. Take yourself through the practice of focusing on each sense and paying attention to the nuances within. It is important that in the process of your practice that you be gentle with yourself. You will get distracted and it is totally human to do so. Our minds are often in such turbo mode that we struggle to take a few steps back and take in the intricacies of the moment. That is OK!
Growing up some of my best memories are of going on backpacking trips with my dad, brothers and friends. When we escaped into the woods and away from the constant demands of life there was a freedom to experience being in a way that often wasn’t supported by our day to day lives. As we sat by a fire or stared up at the stars we were able to recognize not only the beauty around us but also the beauty within and between us. Being in nature has taught me a lot about being mindful. While some may find it to be boring, I have found it to be quite liberating. I know that I go through my days often so focused on what is next that I forget to be present in what is now.
So, today, I encourage you to take a step back, not just to reflect, but to be present. Stop so that you can begin. Begin to strengthen the muscles in your mind so that becoming present can signify a new pathway forming in your plastic brain. Begin to experience your experiences. (p.s. check out Youtube or just google Mindfulness exercises if you want to try it out. Or hit me up on FB or email. I would love to help you begin this lifelong practice)