Mindfulness is achieved by becoming fully aware of the present moment and accepting any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that may arise in the mind or body. Simple in concept. Challenging in practice…at least for me, anyway. Too often, I lose sight of the present moment and become thoroughly entangled with the voice or “maniac” in my head. I also must admit I am a terrible meditator. Despite some valiant efforts (years ago, I was trained in Transcendental Meditation), it is still so easy for me to get sucked back into all the trappings of my mind day in and day out and forget that there even is a present moment. So, here are some things that I try to remember or use to keep me more mindful and present:

  • Be gentle and realistic with yourself. Most of us spend most of our day analyzing the past and anticipating the future, forgetting the present moment altogether. Unfortunately, this is a normal part of being human. Therefore, we need to give ourselves credit for any success we have. One moment of presence is better than none. Acknowledge any successes and keep building on them.
  • It is very easy to forget that we are not the incessant chatter or maniac in our heads. To help us remember our true Self that can notice all that chatter without reacting to it, imagine there is a bottomless pit between you and your maniac. You can keep standing at the edge, listening to all its worries, obsessions, criticisms, judgments, etc. or you can choose to walk away without reacting in any unnecessary way. The maniac may keep yelling at you, but it is on the other side of that bottomless pit. It has no power to affect you if you don’t let it.  Practice acknowledging the maniac whenever you notice it acting up. You can assess if it has any useful information for you. If not, walk away. 
  • Remember the maniac generally keeps us focused on things in the past or the future, neither of which we have any control over. It can completely incapacitate us if we let it. However, by noticing what is happening in the present moment, we realize we essentially have two choices …we can either problem-solve and act as needed and appropriate, or we can gracefully accept what we may not be able to change. Our true power and control reside in the present moment.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Although we can practice mindfulness in the day-to-day moments that we notice our maniac acting up, we can also strengthen our mindfulness “muscle” with regular meditation practice. For this reason, I am going to challenge myself and you to commit to regular practice, whatever that means to you. Although “meditation challenge” sounds like an oxymoron, I look at it as the delicate balance between gentle acceptance and discipline, something to strive for in all areas. Perhaps, it is just starting with 5 minutes per day. Start wherever you can and, most importantly, enjoy the journey.

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