Six years ago in a seminar, while explaining the difference between Important and Urgent life matters, I referred to Mitch Albom’s quote:
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”
I then wondered. What wisdom have we missed that other life forms are living by?
Years, books and life lessons later, I understood that, all that matters in life is not measured in hours, minutes or seconds, but rather in moments. It is to decide that the present moment is the only moment that counts, it is the only moment where Life dwells.
Time is important when planning flights, meetings or detonators but has no relevance when it comes to passion, compassion, gratitude, relationships, creativity or anything that really matters in our lives.
Bring your awareness into this present moment and experience presence. It is also referred to as mindfulness, or consciousness. It means to simply live one present moment at a time, to live while consciously aware of every feeling, action, sound, taste, thought, breath or smell you are experiencing. Ultimately, it is about enjoying each moment as a gift.
The opposite would be to do things out of habit , to switch to auto-pilot mode, without a conscious awareness of what is happening at that moment. An example would be to drive back home from work and not remember the journey there, because you were either listening to the radio or your thoughts.
The relevance of practicing mindfulness nowadays is greater than ever.
To our detriment, we have perfected the ability to multi-task and are quite proud of it. We eat while working or jog while listening to a podcast, but are we enjoying our meals? Are we listening to our body’s cues while exercising?
At work, we think about home and at home we think about work and on the beach we think about grocery shopping and so on. We are physically in one place, but our mind is miles away. This is the main cause of stress, unhappiness and lack of enjoyment that most people complain about nowadays.
Present or Not present?
What concerns me is when I see people riveted to their phones, during what are meant to be precious moments with their loved ones. I see it even during meetings and in training rooms! They are simply not consciously there, and consequently rob themselves of any benefits or genuine enjoyment.
The ideal scenario would be to have our body and our mind in the same place, simultaneously to truly experience the blessing of each present moment.
We are born mindful
Just observe children while they are playing or discovering their environment. They are totally focused, present and so blissfully happy. Children are our mindfulness teachers.
What happens is that as children grow, the adults in their environment, whether at home, at school or through interactions with people in their community, teach them lack of mindfulness both directly and indirectly through their attitude and behaviour.
Children are silent observers. They learn directly and effortlessly from observing their immediate environment: their parents first, then the other important adults in their life, like their teachers.
Imagine a family where parents are modelling presence, through maintaining their calm, being fully focused and enjoying each moment, each task, just being there, body and mind in whatever they do. Imagine the quality of time they will spend with their children and the reinforcement of mindfulness they will instil in them, or more rightfully said, remind them that innate state.
I believe that a world where we are all mindful will be a much better place for each one of us.
How to cultivate mindfulness?
A very simple yet very effective approach is to act with curiosity towards life, like young children do. For them everything is new and undiscovered. Their life is full of “first times”. They look at life with wonder and are completely invested in each moment. They practice mindfulness naturally.
So, what if we remind ourselves of how it looks, sounds, feels, smells, or tastes like, to do things for the first time? Just say: “Let me drink this glass of water, as if it is the first time.”, “Let me drive my car, as if it is the first time.” or “Let me walk in the park as if it is the first time.” The human mind is very suggestible and will play along effortlessly. It is all about the intentions you set, and it works like magic!
Other ways to experience mindfulness would be through meditation, yoga and other activities that you enjoy. Personally, I found it quite fascinating to be effortlessly present while playing games like darts or billiards.
The benefits are endless and include inner peace, greater life enjoyment, safety, improved health, enhanced productivity and creativity, better relationships, happier families, prosperous nations and ultimately a step closer towards the advancement of humanity.
Word of caution
There are so many distractions out there with constant floods of information pouring in from all kinds of sources. If we are not aware and careful, our mind can easily drift away from the present moment. One of the consequences of detachment and not being present in the moment is stress and its negative impact on our health and wellbeing.
A way forward
I invite you to start consciously practicing mindfulness for a few moments on a daily basis, or at least regularly, to build up a habit that will contribute to your leading a more fulfilling life.
Do you find yourself reaching out to your phone every couple of minutes? Try to take short “detox periods” throughout your day, or for longer, if your obligations permit.
Sitting at the dinner table with your family and you find yourself thinking about work or what you have to get done the next day? Take the time to be present and really listen to your partner, children or parents and notice how your relationships will strengthen over time.
These are just a few ideas to get you started.