Harness the Power of Mindfulness
During your busy day, psychologists and life coaches will tell you that you can either be mind full or mindful.
Unfortunately, you can’t be both at the same time. You can’t have a mind crammed full of thoughts, fears, worries, anxieties, deadlines, and to-do lists and also be mindful.
These two states of mind are incongruent with one another: only one state can exist at any one time.
To clarify, mindfulness for our purposes is bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis (Marlatt, G. A., & Kristeller, J. L. (1999).
Mindfulness and meditation. In W. R. Miller (Ed.), Integrating spirituality into treatment: Resources for practitioners (p. 67–84). American Psychological Association.
The keyword here is “time”. Most of our thoughts, worries, fears, and anxieties are time-based. They are either concerned with things that have happened in the past. Or they are focussed on what is going to happen in the future.
Guilt and fear are classic examples of thoughts trapping you in the past or future. If you regret something you’ve said that’s caused hurt to somebody, and the guilt causes you to continually wish you could take back those words, then you’re trapped in the past and the only way to free yourself and return to this moment is to forgive yourself and let go.
Bitterness and hatred do the same thing. If you feel bitter or hatred towards someone for causing you harm, that bitterness and hatred is keeping you trapped in the past and preventing you from experiencing the fulness of life in this very moment.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Thirty years ago, as a medical student, my two best friends at the time stole money from me. Worse, when I confronted them with their deviousness, they denied it and even blamed me for being so trustworthy.
“It was a betrayal that stabbed me in my heart”.
“Et Tu Brutus?” Shakespeare had Julius Cesar say when his friend plunged the final dagger into him to end his life.
But I too was my own enemy. I kept the wounds open and didn’t allow my heart to heal through thoughts of hatred and revenge. I wanted to hurt them as much as they had hurt me, so my days were filled with vengeful plans and intentional malice.
As the weeks passed, my mind was consumed with getting them back. I was re-living the indignation over and over again in my mind. I was always angry and filled with rage, which affected my relationships with my other good friends and affected my physical health. I became tired and cranky and even lost weight.
My mental and physical health only improved when I decided to forgive them for their betrayal and let it go. It wasn’t easy, of course, but I realised I was only hurting myself more by re-living the pain and keeping it alive in my mind. Only by dropping the ‘phantom’ pain from the past could I stop feeling the pain in the present.
Worry and fear do the same thing as guilt and bitterness and hatred, only they cause future pain to be felt now before the pain has even been inflicted. It’s a kind of time-travel pain from the future.
If you worry or fear something is going to happen to you or a loved one, you trap yourself in some virtual event that might not even occur and thus remove yourself from this present moment.
You can’t be filled with guilt, bitterness, hatred, worry, and fear and be mindful at the same time. This is because, by nature, our thoughts are not focussed on the moment of right now. Which means they detract from your experience of living in the moment, and this limits your mindfulness.
Yet, the “now” is all there is. There is no tomorrow, only now. There is no past; it has already been and gone. There is no there, only here.
The past and the future rob you of your experience of now. As such, they rob you of life itself.
As the ancient Sanskrit poet wrote:
“Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life… Look well, therefore, to this day.”
This is why mindfulness has physical, mental and spiritual healing powers because it taps into the Source of Life.
Research has shown that mindfulness has proven benefits on the mind, emotions and body, including improved memory and sensory perception, self-compassion and kindness, and improved immunity. It also has been proven to improve anxiety and depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and addictions and compulsions (Kabat-Zinn, 2014).
So why, then, when we know all the benefits that mindfulness brings, is it so difficult to maintain?
Why does it seem more natural to be mind full than mindful?
Why do we allow the past and the future to cloud our experience of the present?
Because we choose to.
Nobody else. Not your parents, not your friends, not your partner, not your boss. – you make a choice on where you focus your attention.
Mindfulness is simply that—a choice of where you focus your attention.
You either choose to focus on the constant inner chatter inside your head, or you decide to focus on the silence of your mind. You do this thousands of times a day and billions of times during your lifetime.
Unfortunately, like most of us, it’s usually an unconscious choice. You don’t realise you’re making it.
But that’s free will. You have the freedom to choose in every moment what you want to focus on.
So how can we make more conscious choices? How can we remember to refocus on this present moment when our thoughts have strayed to the past or wandered off to the future?
You can do this by asking yourself this question as many times as you can during the day:
“How can I make this moment bigger?”
Asking this question does 2 things.
First, it centres you in this moment of now by causing you to focus on what this moment requires to be ‘bigger’.
Second, you align yourself with the natural law of life, which is growth.
Life itself is growth. It’s flow, it’s circulation, it’s cycles. Life is a constant state of renewal, replenishment, refreshment.
That which isn’t life is stagnation, limitation, death. Anything that makes this moment ‘smaller’ is discordant with the natural law of growth and is in fact, anti-life.
So when your mind is full of thoughts and crammed with worries and fears, you cannot make this moment bigger, just as a cup brimming with water cannot be filled any further.
Only when you empty your mind of thoughts, worries and fears, can you allow yourself to be filled with life, just as an empty cup can be filled and replenished.
Things that make this moment ‘smaller’ are basically anything that keeps you trapped in the past or the future, and these are usually loss, limitation, and lack.
You know you are making the moment smaller when you have neediness, greed, hatred, revenge, gossip, hurt, gluttony, fear, worry, guilt, and other such thoughts and emotions.
There were great periods of time when I used to make the moment smaller, not bigger. During my young adulthood, my underlying attitude or motive was, “What’s in it for me?”
I was always looking to “get” something in return from others – many of my relationships were transactional. That is, “I’ll give you this, if you give me that.” Which included physical, emotional, and financial transactions.
I was very needy. I needed to be needed. Which meant I was taken advantage of a lot, but I also took advantage of others. Neediness, I learned, kept me trapped in the past (what I never ‘had’) and the future (what I hoped would fill the void), and is a poor foundation for lasting and meaningful relationships.
When you look to “get”, and not to “give”, you suck the life out of the present moment. You make the moment smaller by trying to take from it.
On the other hand, things that make the moment ‘bigger’ are those that keep you centred in the present, and these are usually the things that add value to others, serve others, or give to others.
You know you are making the moment bigger when you are being generous, grateful, joyful, caring, kind, and have poise and peace of mind.
People who make the moment bigger generally follow The Golden Rule: Do unto others that which you would have done unto you.
In other words, “What would they like me to do for them?”
When you have others needs in mind, you will continuously give, constantly serve, always add value.
You will always make the moment bigger and, paradoxically, you take back that which has been stolen by the past and the future—your life.
This is the true healing power of mindfulness.
Dr. Scott Zarcinas (aka DoctorZed) is a doctor, author of 8 books, and transformologist.
He helps pro-active people to be happier, more confident, decisive, and effective so they can activate their fullest potential and become the person they are capable of being. He specialises in helping work-at-home fathers build their self-esteem and self-belief, sothey have the confidence and the courage to live a life that is true to themself.
DoctorZed gives regular workshops, seminars, presentations, and courses to support those who want to make a positive difference through positive action.
Visit his website at www.scottzarcinas.com