March 9, 2017

Minding the Moments

I am a planner. I love to plan out days, weeks, and months. Calendaring is one of my favorite parts of the week. My life is crazy busy and I love pulling it all into order on my calendar. One of my favorite hobbies is planning vacations. It’s an adrenaline rush – deciding where to go and figuring out all the details of what to see and where to stay!

All that planning makes for an organized life, but I recently realized I had a problem when I spent one whole get-away weekend with my husband planning our next vacation. It dawned on me that I was so busy planning my future life, I wasn’t living my current life.

The sad thing about spending all my mental time in the future was that I didn’t notice what was going on in the moment. Not only was I missing my life as it happened, I couldn’t remember much about my life either. Our brains can only encode things we pay attention to, so not paying attention equals no long-term memory. Yikes!

I knew I needed to slow down, but how? I couldn’t just stop planning. How would anything get done? Who would keep my life and my family’s life in order? (This is the point where I realized there just might be a few control issues mixed in with my need to plan.) I decided to start small by practicing moments of mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of those things everybody’s talking about, and no one knows what it means, but really it’s very simple. It means paying attention to the moment, without judgement.

Sounds easy, right? But for someone who’s used to running, going, doing, and planning all the time, it can be difficult to be truly present, even for just a moment. I’ve discovered that if I use certain activities throughout my day as mindfulness reminders, it helps to ground me in the present moment. It’s almost like pushing the pause button on a movie that’s playing in fast forward. I can finally see what’s going on around me, reset and then restart the movie on regular speed.

Here’s my mindfulness reminders—but any frequent activity works; all it takes is a moment.

  1. Driving in the car. Turn the radio off. Feel the vibrations of the car. Look around, what do you see? What can you hear? If your thoughts come pouring in, simply acknowledge them and let them go. Come back to your senses.
  2. Washing your hands. Feel the temperature of the water. Notice the bubbles on your skin. Listen to the sound of the water. Notice any light that hits the water.
  3. Walking—especially outside. Notice the temperature, or the feel of the wind. Can you smell anything? What do you see? What do you hear? Feel your feet as they make contact with the earth.

Amazingly enough, my life has not fallen apart as I focus more on the present and less on the future. If anything, things are going better, as I learn to be in the moment and appreciate the beauty of life as it happens. So, pause, take a deep breath and notice your life, right here, right now. I promise, it’s worth a moment!


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