Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mindfulness - what is it?

Have you ever gotten into the vacation groove where you start thinking about what you're going to eat for lunch while you're still sitting at the breakfast table?  Your travel bag is crammed with snacks because you don't want to get hungry?  You're not sure when the next stop is going to be so you pack a cooler in the car and happily munch through the whole trip?

That's not mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about experiencing what is actually happening right at that moment -- not experiencing what may happen in the future before the it gets even gets here.

But why do we do it?  Why do we insist on living our failures before they actually happen?  Why do we insist on rushing through the first hamburger all the while obsessing about whether or not there will be a second one for us on the grill when the first one is eaten?

I suppose there could be lots of fancy and complicated answers for this kind of behavior but I think it's just our habit.  We like to look ahead.  We are confident enough in our relative safety in the present that we don't feel the need to be alert to what we're experiencing now and instead scan the horizon for what's coming our way.

And I suppose that ability has it's good points too.  We can avoid trouble sometimes when we notice something in our near future that is likely to be a problem.  But I don't think we balance these two abilities very well.  I think we've gone overboard with living the future more often than not.  Which means there is very little time devoted to living the present -- which is the only place life actually happens.

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