A most curious gift has been showing up at my home over the past few months. Friends and family have been giving me books and articles on mindfulness. I have been piling them all up with very little intention of doing anything with it. After all, I figure, I am the queen of mindfulness. And then it occurred to me that maybe the universe is sending me a message and I need to pay attention. So during the recent ice storm, I started to tackle the books – – one by one – – and embarked on this journey called mindfulness. My favourite book is “The Mindfulness Revolution”, edited by Barry Boyce.
Mindfulness. It’s a pretty simple word. The concept is that we all it and we can all do it. It’s about paying attention to what you are doing, without distraction. Its about being aware of each moment, without thought of the past or worry about the future. It’s about living in the moment. Easier said than done! The reality is that mindfulness can slip away from us in an instant. Just like that. So where do you start?
I started by paying attention to my breathing and my thoughts. I realized, very quickly, that I am a shallow breather. Shallow breathers do not take in sufficient oxygen to help our brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. Our brains need more oxygen than any other organ in our body. When we don’t breath properly, we are deprived of oxygen and our vitality and health suffers. This has been a timely reminder for me to take time throughout the day to breathe slowly and deeply. It is an exhilarating feeling and easy to practice when you make time for it.
Mindfulness is also about approaching life with acceptance, patience and curiosity. Again, easier said than done, particularly when your natural state is to be impatient and somewhat judgmental, as I can be! I am working on this and have a great role-model in my mom who practices mindfulness without even knowing it.
Mindfulness is simple but not easy. It is simple to take time to be in the moment; but less simple to remember to be mindful. Our world demands us to be productive, fast, busy and efficient. Stopping and slowing down is frowned upon. One of the greatest lessons I have learned from cancer is the benefit of just being and living in the present. There is a heightened awareness and connection with the world and people around you when you are fully there , even in the midst of everyday activities. So I now take time to pay attention to everything around me. I savour the tea I am drinking. I appreciate the crunch in my salad. I listen with full attention when someone is talking to me. I am aware of sounds and sights around me, that I did not notice before. Much to my surprise, the biggest change I had to make in my life to practice mindfulness was to stop multi-tasking (something I pride myself on!). Last week, within a 5 minute timeframe, I noticed that I was on the phone with a relative, partially listening to a documentary on TV, responding to emails and working on my nails – – all at the same time. Think brain traffic! I have noticed that I am addicted to technology and am constantly on my phone, email, facebook, google, etc. – – while doing other things. It is a tough habit to give up but I’m working on it. The benefits are tangible when we are attentive. What is ordinary can become extraordinary. It is like living life in discovery and wonder. So, here is to mindful living!
I invite you to watch another segment of Munira’s Journey called “What if Your Life had an Expiry Date?”.