Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

— Mindful.org, “What is Mindfulness?

Peace and Quiet in the Present Moment

There are times when my mind is at peace, when the anxiety is kept at bay — when all is calm and clear. I walk without worry or distraction. During these moments, I often wonder: is this how someone without anxiety feels on a usual basis?

When I experience these moments of peace, I am very aware they are taking place. My breath enters my chest and upon exhaling there is a looseness in my spine I am physically aware of.

These moments of peace have come more frequently as of late. Over the past two years, they’ve gone from one every month or so to one or two every day. I credit a variety of activities for this change:

  • Listening to buddhist monks chanting[1]
  • Meditation[2]
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Music therapy
  • The Pomodoro Technique
  • Walking

But most of all, I credit the practice of mindfulness, which is the art of being present.

Mindfulness is simple, but it’s not easy

Mindfulness is simple, but it’s not easy. Being in the present moment, truly in the present moment, takes practice and it’s something most of us don’t do very well at all due in large part because of the multitude of distractions in day-to-day life.

We live in the information age, or more aptly, the information overload age. Mindfulness allows us to filter out the noise and stimuli, to re-prioritize that which is most important in our life.

Starting over with your priorities

If you could start over from scratch and place back, one by one, onto the top shelf what you most value in life, what would you add first? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram? Work-related responsibilities, deadlines, and stress? Sorrows of the past, worries of the future? Of course not, but that’s often how we prioritize our day; and our priorities aren’t what we say they are. Our priorities are what we do.

If your children are playing before you at your feet and you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, your priority is not your children, it’s Facebook. If you’re with a loved one physically in the same room, but your mind is playing a non-stop loop of worries about this and that, your priority is not your loved one and what they are saying, it’s the worries in your head.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What you’d likely place back on the shelf first is your family, your friends (a select few that if something happened to them it would impact you deeply, not the convenient 500 “friends” you have on Facebook), your health and wellness, the hobbies you enjoy and some of which you abandoned but don’t really know why, spirituality, be it attached or detached from religion.

That’s the art of mindfulness. It makes you mindful of your time, your greatest resource, and your breath, something with you every step of the way that too many of us take for granted.

If I think back to how drastically my life has changed since I incorporated mindfulness practice into my daily routine, I am rather amazed at the difference. The cassette tape of worries doesn’t loop over and over in my head like it once did. Sure, there are days when its finger is hovering above the play button, but I am mindful of it now so that when it presses down, I don’t let it rule me. I don’t have to listen to the track it demands. I can hit the pause button and recognize what is taking place. I can press rewind. I can press fast forward. I can play any song I choose, if I so choose. I can even listen to the song it wants me to hear and not place judgment on it.

After all, our stress and worries are not because of our thoughts. Our stress and worries are because of our reaction to our thoughts.

Altering this reaction begins with a very simple practice, and it’s something we often tell our children when they are young: be mindful.

This post is part of the Overcoming Anxiety series.

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Footnotes

[1] Surprisingly, a very common practice among people born and raised in Phenix, Virginia. Click here to listen to my playlist of buddhist monks chanting on Spotify. This calms me greatly on a daily basis. I listen to the chants every morning either before I read or while I read. I also listen to it in stretches throughout the day quite often, so long as I’m not on a conference call at work. If buddhist monks chanting aren’t your thing, try gregorian monks
[2] Don’t hate. Meditate! Click the blue link to get started

Photo. Wendy. “Mindfulness.” Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

1 Comment

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  1. I’ve never really thought of it like that but when you put it the way you did it really makes you see things in a different manner…

    …our stress and worries aren’t because of our thoughts. It’s because of our reaction to our thoughts…

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