Have you ever gotten into your car and driven to a destination without remembering how you got there? You know what I mean. If someone asked you for directions, you would have to think about it in order to give detailed information. You just get out of the car and presto! You’re there. The drive was automatic. You were literally on autopilot. This is really an amazing feat. This typically happens if you’re going somewhere you frequent. E.g., work or school. Even the grocery store run can be become “automatic”.
This is no accident. Your brain is an amazing thing. Think about all of the information that has to be processed during the experience of driving a car. The awareness that has to be there, the coordination of actions and events. All of this occurs in milliseconds. To add another level of amazement, we are capable of doing this all day long every day with all the tasks that we have to handle. The downside is we get brain overload and this can make us feel everything from physical fatigue to mental depression. If you ever feel like your life is just a series of routine events with no end in sight… well, for some of us it is.
What we are lacking in this predicament is mindfulness. Mindfulness just means “being in the moment” or being aware of what you’re doing. What does “being in the moment” mean? I know it sounds a bit trite, but it’s simple. Take time to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you do this you can give yourself a type of system reboot. Give your brain a rest from all the things going 90 miles an hour in your head. Because you can only have one thought at a time. If you practice “being in the moment” you can only process what’s happening right then and there.
A mindfulness exercise
Brushing your teeth is probably among the most mindless tasks we do. So let’s start there. The next time you brush, slow down a little, look at the toothbrush, watch the paste as it flows onto the bristles. Pay attention to how the motion of brushing feels. Get all the teeth, especially in the back. Rinse and repeat. I know it sounds ridiculous but give it a try. No one’s looking.
Another thing you can do is notice how you dress yourself. Is it always right sock and right shoe before left, or the reverse? Is it always right sleeve then left? Check yourself out. See what you’re doing. Take these scenarios further. Do you start your car and peel away or do you warm it up before you go? What color is the rosebush you pass on 38th street on your way to work? These little exercises go a long way to giving your brain a break from all the static buzzing in your head.
Practice makes permanent
The more you practice this the easier it gets. You will gradually notice a shift in your perspective. You will be able to apply this technique to projects at work, school or whatever. When I’m home playing my guitar I spend time paying attention to how the guitar neck fits my hand, how I strum a chord or play a particular note. Being mindful when I practice really helps me get through difficult pieces of music. When I’m at work I pay attention to how a muscle feels under my hands and I can feel the muscle respond to different techniques. I think this is the secret for my success!
Okay. Remember that this is a practice, and your results will vary. Start small and go from there. If you have any questions you know how to find me.
peace and love,