How full is your mind? If you’re like most Americans in the 21st century, chances are your brain is overflowing with reminders, suggestions and requests competing for your attention. Rarely is there an opportunity for a moment of reflection or quiet serenity. Even more rare are times unplugged from the desktop, the laptop or the mobile device. Can you recall a day when you didn’t have some gadget interrupting you with demands of the utmost nonsensical importance?
Like anything else, being in the now doesn’t come without a little practice. Like the musician looking to make his or her way to the concert hall, it takes practice, practice, practice.
I started my practice of yoga 8 months ago today. What began as an exercise for my body, soon became a spiritual journey as I began to explore the practice of mindfulness during class.
What is mindfulness you ask? It’s a nonjudgmental observance of the present moment, including one’s thoughts, senses and environment. It is a reflection of what is happening in the moment, without labeling, judging or engaging. In other words, it’s being in the moment without thinking about anything but the moment.
So often, our minds are crowded with the chatter of the background and foreground, without any sense or awareness of our environment. Other times, we become so consumed with a hurt, a worry or an obsession, that we can’t disengage from the thought.
While in a yoga class, I often found thoughts from the day creeping into my mind, or critiques about my ability to perform in class. Rather than labeling these impulses as good or bad, or engaging with them or pushing them away, I began to simply observe them. “There is that thought,” I’d say, as I let it move through my mind without any interference. Soon, I began to explore the art of mindfulness with a newfound sense of acceptance. I was discovering a whole new concept where there was no right, no wrong. I had come to a place in time where everything belongs.
While running along the East River and jogging on a trail in Central Park, I started to notice that instead of grabbing at my thoughts—I could allow them to pass freely through my mind. I began to observe the city around me—the lights, the buildings, the scenery without becoming lost on any 1 particular idea or perception. I was feeling more connected with the world around me, yet less consumed by it.
In a city that thrives on opinions and definitive points-of-view, I was finding myself in a setting that was flowing with a diversity of senses, stimulation and peace. I had transported myself from one of the most competitive metropolises on earth to a calming venue of nonjudgmental freedom—welcome to mindfulness.
You, too, can take this trip. It’s really quite easy. Search out a yoga or meditation class at your health club or community center. Or simply shut the door of your office at lunchtime during the week to sit in the quiet of the midday. Try it and see where you go—just remember before you go, make sure you first unplug, hit mute or switch off. Happy trails.