Continuing on my recent theme of what it means to live mindfully in the moment, I’d like to share with you a few of my thoughts about what it is like to live life live.
Today, while in the car listening to music (my wife was driving) I decided to take a moment to practice mindfulness. I hadn’t had time to sit before leaving the house so I wanted to make sure I was at least a little centred. I closed my eyes and listened to the music with a singular aim: to experience it.
I’ve come to think of the mind as working in three ways:
It seems to me that we can always think about the mind as doing a mixture of these things. We’re anticipating what’s coming, experiencing it happening, or reflecting on what has happened. Most of the time we’re doing all three of these things at once. What I wanted to do was allow the act of experiencing to become my singular activity.
So, as stated, I closed my eyes and listened. I was familiar with the songs playing so I probably began first to anticipate, the upcoming chord progression, the bit I really like in the middle, a particularly clever lyric. I accepted that this was what I was doing and brought my mind back to the music as an experience.
I focused on deepening my experience, being curious about the layers of sound, the harmonies and different instruments. I began to spend more time in experiencing the music.
But, of course, then I began to reflect on what I was doing! Perfectly normal. I accepted that this was what my mind was doing, I smiled to myself and gently nudged my mind back towards the experience. Again, seeking to deepen my clarity by probing the sounds with my mind.
Then a funny thing happened. After a few minutes of doing this I felt something click. For a moment I was entirely in the flow, hearing the music without any brain chatter at all. It was a euphoric feeling. A feeling of being centred, entirely in the moment.
It didn’t last long. After what felt like a second or two I was once again reflecting. But, unfazed, I simply let this pass and moved back to that place. And there it was again, a euphoric sense of stillness and awareness. It seemed that once I had found it I was more able to find it again. More able to settle back into that place of awareness and calm.
This experience stayed with me through the day. I was reminded that mindfulness, presence, experiencing rather than anticipating, reflecting and thinking, was something that could be powerfully applied to so much of life. If listening to some music in a state of mindful presence could be a euphoric experience, what about eating, watching movies, talking with friends? How much of those experiences are we missing out on by simply not being present enough?
Just as distraction is conflict and waiting is a waste of good quality being time, failing to fully experience life is throwing away a wonderful gift. It takes practice and effort to cultivate presence and mindfulness. But, in my experience, it’s worth it.
## What to do
Mediation is Hard Not Complicated. Start off by simply sitting and following your breathing for a few minutes. Feeling the breath, noticing the body rise and fall. You can do that right now. Then, if you’re interested to learn more, there are many excellent guided meditations available online. Personally I love Headspace. Also worth looking at The Mindful Geek if you’re interested in diving more deeply into then science.