I was driving back home on a weekday evening. As a Bay Area resident I knew that it was going to be a long, dull drive in traffic.
I noticed a van inching forward next to me, and I caught a glimpse of the driver. A lady placed one end of her phone on the wheel for support, while using the other hand for typing. She was holding the wheel very precariously. She glanced at me for a second and went right back to her texting.
This was not the first time that I noticed such multi-tasking behavior on the road. We see such distracted behavior everywhere—at work, at home, in fact during our entire waking hours.
Does this affect our capacity to be happy? Is it possible for people to live a more satisfying life, when there are increasing demands on their time?
I was looking for answers to these questions when I discovered a powerful and practical meditation practice called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an ancient meditation practice from the East, which is finding great popularity in the West given the enormous benefits.
Even though mindfulness has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, nowadays it is seen as being more secular, crossing religious and cultural boundaries. Time magazine called this as the “Mindful Revolution.” Many American healthcare institutions offer mindfulness practice to ailing cancer patients and to veterans returning from war zones.
Unlike sitting meditation practices where you need to set aside time and a quiet place to practice, mindfulness can be done while doing daily tasks. Of course, there are deeper nuances to this statement, but the fundamental aspects of mindfulness practice can be taken up by anyone who wants to live a calmer life by practicing it while carrying out daily tasks.
I was introduced to mindfulness through a Zen meditation center in Sunnyvale. I practiced at the center and continued the practice on my own at home and at work.
Mindfulness in Action
Mindfulness helps one to focus in the present moment, keeping our minds away from dwelling in the cluttered past or the imaginative future. If you have ever watched a child or a pet animal, you can see this in action. A child is never preoccupied with the past or about the future. For a child, the only available time is now and he or she wants to make the best use of it. This happens because they live in the present with full intensity.
Health benefits for adults include less stress, better sleep and an avoidance of over-eating. Also one can develop better relationships with family members and friends, since it helps us manage strong emotions, helping us focus in the present.
Try this Simple Exercise
There are many ways to practice mindfulness in your daily life. For instance, I started with applying mindfulness while eating. Prior to trying mindfulness, I would sit in front of the television and eat, barely paying attention to the sensory nature of food. The simple act of mindful eating allowed me to not only appreciate the food I consumed, but to be aware of the quantity. As you can see, this can help one develop a healthy body weight.
This can be an easy way to start—let’s say you want to try eating mindfully a few times a week, if not all the time. When you begin to eat, try to avoid distractions like watching television, books, computers or phones. Focus only on your eating. Take your time to eat your food, while avoiding thoughts about upcoming tasks. It might be a good idea not to eat when you feel stressed, angry or in a rush. Food should nourish your body and help you think better so take your time and eat mindfully.
When you try this exercise of mindful eating, you will begin to appreciate the very act of eating. A daily routine will suddenly become an act of joy.
As we saw earlier, the driver can either drive with distractions or do that mindfully. When you do things mindfully, a great transformation that brings about change to the way you live.
Mindfulness has made strides with individuals and now schools and even corporations try this to make workers more relaxed and productive.
Why don’t you give it a try? Mindful living gives you an opportunity to live a healthier and happier life.
Singaravelan Narayanasamy has been practicing Mindfulness for over three years. He shares his experience with others through his free online classes. You can learn about his Mindfulness classes at www.facebook.com/livemindfullynow. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his family.