Ever find yourself driving down the road, and realize that you’ve been so lost in thinking that when you look up at an exit sign you say “how did I get here?!” Or in the shower, so completely absorbed in rehashing a conversation in your head that you don’t remember if you washed your hair or not? I know I have.
My mind, like everyone’s, has an amazing ability to time travel. Indeed, it spends most of it’s time doing just that. If we really look at our own minds, we often find that we’re either in the past, rehashing some previous event, or in the future, planning or rehearsing. Very rarely are we right here, right now.
Mindfulness is the opposite of living our life on auto-pilot. It is the “awareness that arises when we pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,” in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the well-known Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
The big problem with life on auto-pilot is that we may discover that we’ve become limited in our choices for how we think, act or feel. With mindfulness, we gain the ability to put ourselves on pause long enough to observe what’s actually happening in the moment. We begin to see our own habits of mind and reactions in a new way. This can actually allow us to expand the range of options we have for how we will enter in to the next moment, and ultimately our lives. Not surprisingly, there is a growing body of research pointing out the health benefits of living our lives more consciously.
But Mindfulness is not something that we can just hear or read about. It is a transformative life skill that requires practice. In fact, the hardest thing about being “mindful” is simply remembering to be “mindful”. The capacity to remember takes training. It’s really no different from any kind of new physical exercise we might try. I’d be pretty foolish to think that just because I heard about skydiving and think it might be a cool sport, I can simply go up in a plane and jump out without any training. But, if I get some good instruction and I practice, I may just get the ride of a lifetime. So too with Mindfulness Meditation. If I practice, I may find that the ride of a lifetime is actually my own life... and that I’m here for it.
Join Catherine Orzech for, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, an 8-week course, Thursdays, September 26 to November 14, 7-9:30pm plus a one day workshop.
The program includes: guided instruction in mindfulness meditation practices, group discussions, gentle stretching and yoga, daily "homework,” CDs and a workbook. Register here, $375