In my previous post, I explored some reasons as to why there appeared to be such an upwards trend regarding the subject of mindfulness. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m definitely no expert when it comes to the art. A lot of what I have mentioned in part one were very much my own insights into the topic; using both personal experiences and some related research.
I was conversing with a good friend of mine, who specializes in working with individuals who experience difficulties with emotional dysregulation. My friend did a great job of explaining his take on mindfulness to me, and likened [mindfulness] to a time him and his daughter were playing with Lego blocks together. In the example, my friend not only found himself constantly thinking of what to build next using the blocks, but also anticipating dinner plans and the cleanup of the Legos, and all the while his daughter was simply enjoying the colours and textures of each piece.
The story acts as a good metaphor for what we modern humans go through during our natural life-cycle. We begin with an inherent awareness of our surroundings: smells, senses, emotions. As we begin to age, and with the influence of external factors such as work, money, technology; we somehow start to slowly lose grasp of our natural awareness.
I remember one particular t-shirt that my younger brother used to wear when we were children; it was a Star Wars t-shirt. Printed on the t-shirt was the (somewhat) famous quote:
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”– Master Yoda
I find that the quote holds true to so much that we humans go through in our journey to adulthood and beyond. We accumulate. Whether it be knowledge, habits, behaviours, addictions, wealth. We learn. And with learning comes innovation. And with innovation there is planning. Planning often involves anticipation, and anticipation sometimes leads to worry. When you put all of these things together, what happens to our innate awareness? In my opinion, it gets pushed to the back burner (so to speak).
So we begin to unlearn what we have learned. We begin to seek out what was once so deep-rooted inside of us during a more “simpler” time.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who could easily appreciate the little things in life. But it wasn’t until me and my wife welcomed our son into the world that I began to realize how anxious and stressed I actually was. It wasn’t a sudden epiphany, but more of a snowball effect. For me, seeking out the art of mindfulness is not only a way to reduce said symptoms, but also a way to truly be present for my wife and son. Like many parents, I want to feel a full sense of appreciation for any opportunity I have with my children. I also think it’s important for a child to know their parent(s) are attentive.
Although I’m still a novice when it comes to actual practice, I found the following list of activities to be of great help:
- Meditation Apps (i.e. Headspace, Calm): The irony of this one is that we’re utilizing technology to disconnect. However, as mentioned in part one; technology has it’s uses when used correctly.
- Listening to your favorite album from start to finish: No skipping tracks or fast forwarding. This one was recommended by a friend of mine.
- Designating a time of day that is “device free”: Whether it be with friends or family, just committing a time of day to put away your mobile devices.
- Vacation time: And I mean actual vacation time. In today’s mobile workforce, it’s becoming more difficult to actually be “off-the-clock”. However, it’s important that we communicate to both colleagues and superiors that there will be times throughout the year when we will be unreachable. No excuses. No backtracking. Make preparations accordingly to ensure it happens.
There are many more techniques to mindfulness that range from beginner to expert to “Guru-level”, but I feel the list above is a good start.
When it comes down to it, the journey towards mindfulness could be a very slow process. However, in an age that continues to demand so much of us: whether it be our time, attention, or expertise – it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with both physical and emotional burnout. I believe it’s becoming of more importance to really take the time to slow down, disconnect, and begin to appreciate the little things in life once more.