Have you ever said something you really regret? I mean something REEEEALLY out of character? And right afterward, you may have thought… ‘why on earth did I say that of all things?’ The thing that you said, you may not have even believed. It may have even felt like your mouth was talking all by itself, untethered from your brain. And you retrace your steps over and over again, only to find that there is no connection between logic and what just came out of your mouth.
Here’s another one… the times where you might’ve been at a loss for words. In those moments, it seems as if the silence is suffocating you and as you drown in a whirlpool of “what do I say?” you realize that the time to respond is swiftly passing by and there won’t ever be a more perfect time to revisit this moment, articulately saying the exact thing you wanted to say. And you kick yourself with regret, maybe even rehearsing for some improbable future when the moment repeats itself and you get a do-over.
Here’s the thing… we all get do-overs. Those do-overs are called the present.
For the month of June, Black Women’s Day of Meditation has chosen ‘mindfulness' as our focus. We’ve chosen mindfulness because it’s a big part of meditation. Some even call it a practice all by itself. Mindfulness, places you, your mind and your body in the present. So that your mind and body are connected (and you’re not worrying about what’s going to come out of your mouth.)
In his book Mindfulness for Everyday Living, Christopher Titmuss says 'Mindfulness is an indispensable tool for daily living. It helps us to cultivate a clear and comprehensive awareness of what is happening WHILE it is happening without allowing the mind to wander.' The reason I chose to start this blog by talking about “brain farts” and its many variations is because when we are not mindful, we increase the odds of experiencing regretful things.
Being aware and absorbed in every moment gives our brain the ability to be sharp and firing on all cylinders. When we’re thinking about the future or the past or all of the things we need to do - in other words, when our mind is everywhere but in the present moment - we force our brain to operate without us, inadvertently bringing us to an outcome we don’t want.
So how can one be mindful?
There are a number of techniques that can be used to pull you back into the moment. One of the things that I like to do is focus on my surroundings. Whenever I find my mind doing backflips and jumping all over the place from thought to thought and worry to worry, I stop and look around. I ask questions like "Where am I?” “What am I doing right now?” (Sometimes I ask this out loud). I then think about whether I am giving my full attention to this task. For example, if I’m making a sandwich, the answers to my question would be “I’m in the kitchen. I am making a sandwich.” The biggest question of all - in my opinion - is, am I giving this task the respect it deserves? In thinking like this, I recognize that the thing that I am honoring with this task, deserves to have my full attention. I don’t want to give my taste-buds and stomach a crappy sandwich. I want to pour my love and attention into this important task. And so I will take my time and be in the moment, focusing on nothing but making this sandwich and when it is finished, I will enjoy it.
Having respect for the present and whatever task you are doing is a huge part of mindfulness. Many times, when we split our focus between what we’re doing and what we hope to achieve (or don’t hope to achieve or whatever else), we are rejecting a positive outcome. I’ll give you a real world example. When you do not chew your food thoroughly, it messes up your digestion. So while that big chunk of stuffing and chicken might be the least of your priorities while it's going down your throat, the disrespect you had for your stomach when you were mindlessly shoveling food into your mouth is going to show up in the form of indigestion. This is a universal law. You get what you paid for.
So mindfulness is a form of showing respect, PAYING attention to the things that you are doing so that when it’s time to GET what you paid for… your return on investment comes in full.
In addition to being aware of your surroundings, there are a number of breathing techniques that you can use in order to practice mindfulness. I like to observe my breath. Breathing in and out. In doing this, I become aware of whether I was breathing at a fast rate or very slow. (In my case, most times it’s the former). In managing my breathing, I regain my sense of calm and become aware of my body, relaxing parts that were tense. Once I get my body and mind to a peaceful and manageable state, my attention is then put toward whatever I am doing. In these moments, I honor the present.
So this month, I encourage you all to honor the present. Take in every moment (yes, even the crappy ones) with gratitude and respect. Because every moment is here to teach us something and if we’re paying attention - especially when things are at their worst - we can reap amazing benefits later on. Additionally, in showing respect to the present moment, we are honoring ourselves, our loved ones and essentially, the entire Universe. I can’t even begin to think of a better gift than that.