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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mindful moments

Mindfulness is a skill we can train in during meditation -- being present with what's happening with awareness, not judgment -- but it's one that works best when carried over to daily life. Be present with what's happening in your life, esteemed teachers and researchers tell us, and you'll enjoy it more.

But the thought of being mindful 24-7 can be intimidating -- and can create a new source of stress. Instead of missing out on the moments of our lives because we're judging them in comparison to other moments or looking at what they lack -- the sunset was better last week, this is a nice beach but I liked it better at the other one, this party would be more fun if Joe was here  -- we're berating ourselves for failing to be mindful.

Here's the thing: The key to using mindfulness to enhance your life is to do it with kindness and friendliness. If your application of mindfulness becomes another way to criticize yourself, it's not helping to reduce stress.

Elisha Goldstein observes that it can be helpful to think of finding mindful moments rather than living a mindful life.

As we practice and repeat something the brain registers it and it starts to become more automatic. With the practice of mindfulness we start to experience more moments of awareness. Maybe it’s the moment that you’re driving shouting at the car next to you that one of those moments arrives. You pause, take a few deep breaths and become more flexible in how you’re seeing that situation and the choices you have before you.

...There are so many moments throughout the day where this kind gentle awareness is available to get us in touch with choice and the wisdom of what matters.

It will help a whole lot if we can drop the label in our minds of aspiring to be a mindful person and instead aspire to have more mindful moments. This simplifies things and takes away the trap of falling short.