How do I remind myself to be mindful when I lose my focus?
Art Matthews Says...
This might sound more than a bit like a cliche from a kung fu movie but one remembers to be mindful by developing awareness that we are not being mindful and then getting back to being mindful. Jon Kabat Zinn, the "father" of mindfulness in the U.S. defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” I believe that when we lose focus on the present moment, we will begin to feel physically and emotionally distressed. Future focus will result in anxiety, past in depression, "other mind" focus (thinking what others think about me) leads to resentment and anger, and focus too deeply on my own judgments leads to low self-worth or exaggerated self-worth (neither of which are beneficial). When we become aware of distressing physical feelings (signs of tension, heightened pain, etc.) or emotional distress, then our minds have likely ventured away from this moment and it's time to reel them back in.
Let's face it. Modern Western Civilization does not promote present-moment focus. We are only as good as our last success -- or failure -- and we aren't valued for who we are but for our potential for who we are going to become. We are consumers of the present only because it gets us to where we want to be in the future. We have come to believe that the "now" is not worth living; but the promise of the future, now THAT's worth everything.
There's an old joke about a man who asked someone on a New York street, "How do you get to Carnegy Hall?" And the punchline: "Practice! Practice! Practice!" How will you learn to become mindful? Practice and practice some more. Many people give up on mindfulness because they confuse a simple technique for an easy one. Simple means that something is uncomplicated, easy means it takes little effort. The simplest of tasks can be extremely difficult. Maintaining mindfulness in a busy modern society is not an easy task.
The Buddhists refer to a human phenomenon called the "monkey mind," which refers to being "unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; or uncontrollable." That is the natural state of the human brain. We all have to contend with the fact that our minds will go where they will. I have even heard the story of a man who approached the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhist religion, and asked if the Dalai Lama could teach him how to meditate. The reported response from his Holiness was, "Well, I'm really not that good at it."
So you see, you can let go of the self-judgment that you feel when you catch yourself not being mindful. That awareness you have drifted away from the present is nothing more than an indication that you can once again choose to focus on the "now"... or not! The choice is yours. There is no right or wrong choice. It's simply a choice and each option will give you a different consequence. Which consequence would you rather have? Choose wisely.
Greater men and women than you and I have spent a lifetime learning to master mindfulness. Consider that at this moment you are on your path to mastery but you have not reached it yet. Each time you become aware of the fact that you are not focused on the present is a teachable moment that is gifted to you so that you can practice more and perfect your ability to focus regardless of the distraction.
So, young grasshopper, go forth and judge yourself no more. Simply (again, perhaps not easily) redirect your thoughts to the present moment and disconnect from that other "time zone" you just found yourself in. The more time you spend being mindful, the better. Having your mind drift away doesn't eradicate the benefits that mindfulness has already given you. The way to experience more benefits is to get back to mindful existence.
Live in this moment... this one... before... it... is... gone!
Then pay attention to this one... now.
And do it again!
From a student cricket, himself.
Page last updated Aug 04, 2013