Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mindless Humans

Often in our day, we have so many influences that determine the course of our actions, our thoughts, our consciousness and in general just how we view our day. Yet, we fail to see the totality of these individual events as they dramatically impact our lives. We often see them as unconnected events without any significance to the higher purpose of our self or of the universe as a whole.

What events am I referring to? These events are the moments in our every day existence that we barely notice yet they account for the many tasks we do. They are things we have to do in order to take care of ourselves or family members in any given day. It may be a job that we go to, running our kids to daycare or after school events or dealing with a myriad of mundane tasks. Yes, all these tasks are important and critical to our lives. For if we stopped doing them, there would be serious repercussions for us. Even watching TV shows and news, while appearing to inform or entertain you, may actually result in you being disconnected and not conscious or mindful.

So if these mundane tasks are important than what is your point? When was the last time, you walked out the door in the morning and just listened to the birds sing with joy? When was the last time you went to lunch in your day and stopped to pause for a moment to feel the sun hitting on your face giving you a warmth and energy that felt so invigorating? When was the last time, while taking your child to daycare or an activity that you truly listened to what they were saying and not just thinking about all the things you needed to get done? When was the last time, you just stopped for a moment and noticed your breath and your body and just how good it felt to do that?

We all have our mundane tasks in sometimes our mundane life that we have to do. That is a fact of life unless you are a lottery winner and can pick and choose everything you do in life. However, even people who are wealthy have mundane tasks that they must do. All of us have to get out of bed at some point during the day and eat, groom ourselves and do whatever it is that we feel is important. No matter how fortunate or wealthy we are, these things are a given for our day. Since we can't escape these normal tasks, can we not enjoy them in a mindful way?

As stated by Ellen Langer in her book, On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity (page 11), "In many small ways we have learned to become mindless without questioning why we do so.". This is a powerful statement and is what I'm referring to as I talk about being mindless during our mundane tasks that we do each day. We all do it, no matter who we are or how advanced we are. Some people are better than others at bringing mindfulness into their days instead of just being mindless.

So what can we do? One of the things that each of us can do is just taking a moment out of our day and being with ourselves. We can do this by spending a few moments (30 seconds would be enough for this exercise) and noticing our breath. Feeling the rise and fall of our breath, how shallow or deep it is and even how rapid or slow it is will connect us to our breath. By connecting to our breath, we will connect our mind with our body and if you stay with this exercise for a few moments, you'll begin to feel the effects of it on your body in how centered you feel, how at home you feel and even the tension within yourself. You need not pay anyone for an experience like this because you can do it with yourself at any time of the day or night. It is simple but effective. Eckhart Tolle in his book discussions with Oprah Winfrey on A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (Oprah's Book Club, Selection 61) did a very powerful example of this. He just had everyone sit there for 30 seconds wherever they were at and focus on their breath. It was an amazing experience for many and I once again saw the power of something that was this simple.

Another simple thing we can do is when we are walking out the door in the morning, just stop and listen to all that we can hear. Some of you may have many noises such as cars and city sounds but see if you can listen beyond that. How many different birds do you hear singing? How fast are the chirps coming from the birds? Is the wind rustling through the leaves of the trees and how does that sound? You may hear a dog barking in the background or a cat meowing. What other sounds do you pick up?

If sounds do not work for you, try picking up on the colors you see as you walk out of your house. Can you notice the different colors of the landscape around your house or your neighbors? What if you look at the trees and see all the colors on the tree? How many different colors are there and how many different shades of the color green can you see? I'm only scratching the surface with all that you can see because the same things can be applied if you just look at the sky and clouds.

There are many ways you can be mindful in your day including feeling the warmth of the sun as you step out of a building or staring at the clouds and creating cloud images in your mind. You could even take a moment when you're in the shower and feel the sensation of the hot or cold water on your skin. Giving yourself plenty of time to eat so that you can actually taste and enjoy your food without having your daily tasks flooding your conscious mind. These are a few examples and if you practice being mindful instead of mindless, you'll find many more.

Please don't stop here thinking this is all that mindfulness is for it is much more than that. Try to take all that you pick up in these exercises and see how it makes you feel within your body. Do you get a warm glow or tingle? Do you feel goosebumps on your skin? Do you feel your body sink down into a state of relaxation? Do you sense your breath slowing down and becoming fuller?

There are so many ways that we can be impacted by becoming mindful and when you feel it in your body, you have truly crossed over from being a mindless human to being mindful of your life, your day and your moments. At this point, life will be much more rewarding and abundant for you while becoming more conscious.

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