Because I’m feeling more hopeful and energized now that my health has improved, and because I keep hearing so many positive things about Mindfulness, I decided I should do some research and see what it’s all about. I first heard this new buzz word a few weeks ago when I read an article about how some schools are teaching mindfulness techniques to students who have anger, anxiety, or a penchant for getting into trouble, and according to administrators in these schools, it’s had positive effects overall. So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is focusing on the here and now and not worrying about anything else. Depending on who you ask, there are different motives for doing this. It could be you’ve been multitasking and feel frantic or perhaps you’re experiencing headaches, pain, or anxiety. Maybe you just have issues that are weighing you down which you feel guilty or depressed about. People are trying to become more “mindful” in various ways ranging from meditation to yoga. Why is “mindfulness” becoming so popular? I think it’s because our society has become one in which most of us are racing around trying to do too much at once. We set multiple goals and want to achieve everything we can either at work or in our home life or even at church, but God does not want us to sacrifice our health and our relationships.
I’ve come to realize that if you’re making the world a better place instead of a worse place, you’re doing your part, and if you think you’re going to save the world by doing extra in the workplace or serving long term in some capacity at church, think again. What you WILL get is burn out. I think Rick Warren said it best this week when he pointed out that God has created us to have a relationship with him as shown in Ephesians 1:10 and Ecclesiastes 3:11. Warren stated, “Life is a dress rehearsal. This is the warm-up act for the big event. You need to get prepared for eternity by getting to know God, becoming more like Jesus, and letting God use you to fulfill his purpose on Earth.” Remember how Christ would go off alone quite a bit to pray or just to get away from the crowds. If Jesus needed to do it, don’t we all?
So how can you become more mindful? First you will need to detach from your electronics. Stop recording so many shows on your DVR and then feeling the pressure to watch them all. A little bit of TV can be entertaining and can help you de-stress, but if you’re watching hours of it each day, is it really worth it? Another thing you might do is change your phone settings. This week, I turned off my notification settings for all but my calendar, and I’m loving it! I also moved my Facebook app from my homepage to a different page, so I don’t see a number next to it every time I use my phone. The number made me feel like I had to open Facebook at that moment and see the notification. I began to feel like I was checking Facebook all the time. Now I sometimes check it once a day, and I limit myself to only reading it for ten minutes. Most importantly, I uninstalled my work email app. Every time I heard its little jingle, I rushed to my phone to see what came through. Usually, it was spam; sometimes, there was a post to the whole school about something that didn’t affect me; occasionally, it would be an email addressed to me. Always, it was something that could wait until I returned to my workplace.
Once you’ve dealt with the attention-seeking behavior of your technology, set aside time each day, even if it’s only ten minutes at first. Just sit and focus on the present. Don’t allow yourself to think of the past and don’t allow yourself to think about the future. You may have to do this someplace quiet…even if your bathroom or your closet is your only refuge. For instance, I’ve been going out in my backyard since the weather’s nice or going into my bedroom and closing the door. No matter where I am, I take a deep breath in, hold it a couple seconds and breathe out. (Deep breathing, by the way, has shown to have a myriad of positive effects, from lowering one’s blood pressure to sleeping better.) If I find my mind drifting to things I need to do or something that’s happened, I simply tell myself to refocus on that moment and I start breathing again.I also focus on the sounds around me …things like my Sheltie snoring or birds chirping. I’m pretty good at this since I was already doing it sometimes after reading the book The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ. It’s one of the soul-training exercises in it. See…meditation isn’t just for those who practice Buddhism or Hinduism.
If you’ve tried meditation and you feel you can’t do it, you probably need it more than anyone else! Your mind is having trouble letting to and calming down. You might try downloading the Calm app or the Headspace app. Headspace is good because there’s a man with a soothing British accent that talks you through the process of meditation for a few minutes. I like Calm because it has several scenes with sounds that are comforting such as a mountain pond, waves hitting a shore, or rain. You can also download more scenes like a crackling fireplace…which reminds me, earlier this week, there was a segment on the NBC Nightly News about Slow TV, the new shows that feature something that’s mind-numbingly tedious to some people and, yet, these shows are drawing quite a few viewers. Popular shows include footage of an intersection in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, people knitting on a Netflix show, and a simple fire crackling. I think this reinforces my assertion that our society is longing for a break from the rat race. For the NBC report, click here:
Finally, don’t feel guilty. Let go of the past and stop worrying. Focus on loving yourself, loving others, and most of all, loving God, and “…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34
My view as I’m typing this blog post with CJ, my Sheltie, in the foreground