While living in this modern industrialised age we are continuously bombarded by our artificial environment. With the advent of computers and the Internet we no longer have a defined working day or working week. Our lives can feel like we are going from one todo list to the next with very little time to stop and notice the present moment. As discussed in previous lessons, genetically we are hunter-gatherers plucked out of our natural habitat and dropped into this foreign environment created by man. Living day to day in this rat race can get us out of touch with who’s actually doing the doing and we can feel lost.
Mindfulness can be described as a conscious, active, attention on the present moment. It is a process that moves us from doing to just being. For many this conjures up images of sitting on the floor in a robe with incense burning but in reality mindfulness can be used at any time and at any place. We can be mindful while driving the car, washing the dishes or eating a meal. It is a conscious decision to become aware of the present moment. We choose to notice what is being processed by our 5 senses. While sitting in the traffic we can move our attention to what we can see, hear and feel. We become the observer of the moment. Thoughts may come and go and we do not try to control them we just notice them as we would notice a leaf floating past in a stream, letting go of all Judgment. We release all ownership of the emotions that we are feeling and instead observe them as a friend that has come to visit. This awareness is boundless and infinite in every moment of the day. It is an adventure into finding out who we really are instead of what we do. In these moments we will notice our internal dialogue, the little voice in our head that is constantly describing our environment. To change the way we think we first need to become aware of what this voice is saying to us. This dialogue is what drives our behaviour but most of it is unconscious unless we shift our attention. It works like the operating system on a computer. We are only aware of what we see on screen but in the background this system is controlling everything that the computer is doing. We then ask ourselves if this dialogue is serving us or holding us back Many of us may be surprised by what we say to ourselves everyday. Imagine seeing a homeless man on a bus talking to himself. He seems to be having an argument with someone in his mind replaying what both of them said. He raises his voice from time to time randomly jumping from one part of the argument to the next. This makes everyone else on the bus very uncomfortable and he is perceived as a complete nutcase. But in reality what is the difference between this crazy person and any of us? How many times have we replayed arguments in our mind or put ourselves down with the inner voice in our head. The only difference is that we keep this dialogue to ourselves. This voice, which controls our behaviour and our emotions, is entirely unconscious unless we develop some self-awareness.
As we become mindful of our thoughts it’s as if we are standing at the side of the road watching congested traffic slowly drive by. We do not try to jump in the road to stop the traffic but instead allow it to pass while observing. Over time the gaps between the cars slowly increase and we can begin to see through to the other side.
Even if we feel lost or depressed we all have the innate programming within us to think well and by becoming aware of our thoughts on a consistent basis we begin to lift the clouds and expose the blue sky that was always there. Our brains change through repetition so over time this process becomes easier with less conscious effort. It all begins by making the conscious choice of shifting our awareness to the now and then actively repeating this behaviour during our day to day lives.
Steps to thinking well
1. Spend at least 10 minutes per day in quiet meditation – a great resource to learn meditation is www.getsomeheadspace.com
2. Create a gratitude journal – writing down three things that you are grateful for every morning.
Step 1 and step 2 done every morning will completely change the way your day goes – try it for 10 days and you’ll see it for yourself!
3. Concentrate on what you want to happen instead of what you don’t want.
4. Concentrate on what you have instead of what you don’t have.
5. Train yourself to stay in the present moment.
6. Serve others every chance you get – Making other lives better makes your own life better