“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow out of life…” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
As a yoga teacher, mindfulness is a popular topic throughout class. Scientific studies and popular culture credit mindful living with everything from weight-loss to stress reduction to improved quality of life. Even though we all come into the world knowing how to live in the present moment, as we get older mindfulness requires practice. We can get caught up constantly worrying about the past or trying to control the future that the present becomes lost. This happens because our brain likes to seek out patterns, constantly replaying painful past events in an effort to learn how to prevent this pain from happening again in the future. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, constantly replaying moments of pain, rejection, heartbreak, and embarrassment can prevent us from enjoying the peace we have available right here in the present moment.
I have been reading Jonathan Field’s new book How to Live a Good Life, and it got me thinking about mindful and intentional living as a skill we have to practice. His first chapter talks about the importance of moving out of a reactive mindset and instead moving intentionally through life. He recommends things like turning off any sort of notification system on your computer (like the constant dinging that happens every time you get a new email) so that you don’t spend your day constantly reacting to other people’s needs. He then talks about the importance of developing a mindfulness practice to continue to develop this skill.
Thinking about mindfulness as a skill that needs to constantly be developed has encouraged me to put more focus into my meditation practice. I’ve found that in the past two months, when I’m meditating regularly, I also am more content in moments of idleness or silence in my daily life. I have also found that instead of picking up my phone constantly (like when I’m waiting in line to get coffee, or on my lunch break or whatever) when I can sit with my own thoughts my day feels much less stressful. Time opens up a bit more when instead of staring at a screen, I can look around and enjoy what is happening around me.
I hope that your week can start with a little bit more space for thoughts and ideas and peace.