These days, the term mindfulness is heard in schools, workplaces, corporate environments, fitness cultures and on therapy couches. While mindfulness has been a popular concept among eastern spiritual traditions for centuries, in America, it’s become part of an emerging mind-body model that’s gaining recognition, stemming from scientific evidence that the way we think and feel translates through to the body’s cellular level. Bringing together mind, body and spirit can cure what ails the human condition physically and mentally. As New Year’s resolution lists grow, imagine condensing all of those goals into one—the decision to live mindfully.
How can mindfulness make a difference? Mindfulness can add clarity of thought throughout your day, especially in decision-making moments. It can provide more control over your food choices and make your exercise really count, help with organizational skills, control your temper and help you become more assertive.
Do you find yourself in the middle of many tasks at once, wishing you could just get one thing done? Would you like to be able to enjoy your loved ones without being constantly distracted? For some, mindfulness is introspection and connection with oneself. For others, mindfulness is a progressive method toward productivity and success. Western thinking believes its popularity stems from a combination of the two.
So what is mindfulness? It is the capability to direct the flow of consciousness—a deliberate and distinct decision to focus on the now.
If this explanation seems simple, that’s because like so many of life’s light-bulb moments, it is. So, why aren’t we all masters of mindfulness? Often, simple concepts evade us because we are complicated people living in an increasingly complicated world.
“Mindfulness is just as much a practice of what not to do as well as what to do,” says Dr. Rabbi Laibl Wolf. We all have the capacity to choose freely what we want to be and how we want to be. There are two preconditions to change the atmosphere of our mind and thoughts. One must follow a practice of change, a methodology and/or a technology, and believe it’s possible—if not, no number of lectures, seminars, office visits, texts or worships will help beyond making you a person with a lot of information.”
On the road to a mindful existence, one must first recognize the roadblocks and map out the route around them. To quote wisdom from Instagram, “It’s funny that we blame society for everything, but when will we realize that we are society?!”
Trends are very telling of what society needs. Among the roadblocks muddling our path to clarity is the constant assault on the mind from all directions in the various forms of modern technology. Along with the incorrigible speed with which information is disseminated on the Internet comes the great task of filtering, categorizing and either integrating or discarding this information.
With all the great tips and tricks we have at our fingertips, we also have the work of dozens of people loaded onto each of us. Once, when you wanted to travel, you called an agent to book your trip. Now, you trade two nights of sleep to score an online deal. With our brains filled with passwords and to-do lists, we are operating on overload. Running on autopilot becomes our reality rather than our conscious minds constructing our reality, which leads to a subtle sense of helplessness. The mindfulness movement is recognizing the need to be more conscious. No one person should seek to know everything, remember everything and make all decisions.
Is it any wonder that with everyone’s level of daily expectations growing exponentially that somehow there are never enough hours in the day? This has lead to another sorely misunderstood trend: multitasking or the art of messing up several things at once. Mindfulness is the opposite of multitasking.
Studies show that multitasking makes people less productive and may even damage their brain, according to research at Stanford University. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time. Frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another.
Mindfulness is an active mindset rather than a passive mind operating on default. When we awaken our conscious thought to tune in to the subtle subconscious that bombards us regularly, we can filter out what doesn’t serve us. Mindfulness is not concerned with the past or the future, but what is happening in this moment.
Being mindful is a decision we must make. Decisions are what shape our destiny. Living mindfully is what Wolf calls a “vertical life rather than a horizontal one.” When you find your mind jumping in a next, next, next pattern along a horizontal pathway, stop. Stay in the moment to see what is actually there. Doing this over and over will result in a practice of mindfulness—of training your mind’s muscles to process information in the way that best serves you. Perhaps this new year, mindfulness as a resolution can create a more contented path from one moment to the next. It is the succession of these moments that ultimately turn into a lifetime. Happy New Year!