I bet you’ve been looking forward to this day all week. In fact, I’m guessing it was probably the first thing you thought of on Monday morning. Been looking ahead this whole time, which if you checked in with us earlier this week, you learned is something we all tend to do a lot. Planning, hypothesizing, daydreaming…these are a few of your brain’s favorite things. Mapping out the future – even if it’s scary or stressful – also makes us feel safe. It provides the illusion of control, and to use one of last week’s analogies, makes us feel like we have both hands on that steering wheel of life.
When you’re all about what’s next, what happens to what’s now, though? Well, you wouldn’t know, because you’re not there. Good thing you’ve got a “no-fail” mindfulness challenge to help you relocate.
This weekend, we’re working with the effort to be where we are. All that “futuretripping” is worthwhile when it’s intentional, but most of the time, it isn’t. It’s where your mind wanders when it gets bored, worried, anxious, or even intrigued. Not being intentional about when that happens keeps you disconnected from the real, actual, present moments of your life, though. Your mind is gonna take off, and you can’t stop it, but can you choose to bring it back when it does?
Yup. You can train that brain to snap right back, but you have to give it a chance to practice to get there. You couldn’t run a 10K race after your first 10 minutes on the treadmill, right? Give that mind a chance to get stronger.
- Take a seat. Make sure you are comfortable, but not 100% relaxed. Try to find the balance between ease and awareness. You can be cross-legged on the floor, or in a regular chair with your feet on the floor or a pillow underneath them. Chin up, shoulder back, neck straight. (Your grandma would be proud.) ;-)
- Set a timer for whatever amount of time works for you today. One minute, five, ten, thirty…it’s your meditation party. Make it an amount you can realistically commit to today, though, and then really do that. If you get antsy – in mind or body – that’s ok, but you’re not wrapping up until the timer says so.
- Close your eyes, or if that’s not your thing, locate a spot on the floor or the wall in front of you that won’t distract you for the time you’ve set aside.
- Notice your breath. I sincerely hope you’ve been breathing this whole time, but if not, it’s time to restart. Like, pronto. Take note of the simple sensations you feel through your inhales and exhales. Let them be your focal point for a moment.
- Then, introduce your gatha. Wait, what? A who? A gatha! Try it, you’ll love it. A gatha is like a mantra, but you think it to yourself instead of saying it out loud. Additionally, in an exercise like this, you link it to the rhythm of your breath. Like this:
- (Inhale) I know I’m breathing in.
- (Exhale) I know I’m breathing out.
- (Inhale) I know this is the present moment.
- (Exhale) I choose to be here now.
- REPEAT your gatha as many times as you like, or until your timer rings.
- Allow your breath to return to normal, and if you’ve closed your eyes, gently take your time in opening them. Allow your senses to reconnect with the room around you, and if you’ve been still for a while through this exercise, maybe give your shoulders a roll, or your arms and legs a shake or two.
Pretty simple, yeah? It takes a lot of effort, though, to keep coming back to your focal point when your mind wants to go somewhere else. That’s the workout, though. Those are your reps, your miles, your extra stretches to learn the skill and strengthen that “mindfulness muscle.” Eventually, your trips to the future will start to be less about escaping and more about intention, and the present will seem like a destination unto itself.
Photo credit: Brodie Vissers