Have you ever stepped outside of yourself and observed or paid attention to your thoughts? What are you usually thinking about?
If you’re like me then you are often thinking about stuff that has happened in the past or about things that will or may happen in the future. Maybe a conversation you had with someone yesterday. Or how that work meeting will play out tomorrow.
When we are engaged in these kinds of thoughts, we are not living in the present moment. To live in the present moment we must direct our thought (one thought at a time) only to what we can currently observe with our five senses.
For example, “I see clouds in the sky. The sky is light blue. A single bird is flying across the sky. Now another one is following.”
Notice that there are no judgements in these thoughts. No mention of the sky being beautiful or the birds being cute. Only thoughts based on observations of facts.
The mind will naturally gravitate towards creating a story about the facts- giving meaning to what is happening or opinions about what should be happening instead; judging the facts as good or bad, etc.
The mind will also form associations with what we are observing, which will pull us out of the present moment.
For example, yesterday I was driving in my car, practicing mindfulness, focusing on one thought at a time about what my eyes were seeing. My thoughts went something like this:
I see a tree. Its branches are bare. The concrete street is rough looking. It is beige on color. I see a bicyclist ahead. What a terrible thing about Lance Armstrong. How could he lie all those years? What must that have felt like? How disappointing! Is he embarrassed now? I would be humiliated if I were him…
Do you see how easily my thoughts got off track due to the association it made with the bicyclist I saw on the road ahead of me?
As soon as I realized that my thoughts were no longer about what I could observe in the present moment, I simply acknowledged that fact and then redirected them back to my current physical surroundings.
What do you see right now? Name one thing at a time – not in a check list type fashion, but using a full sentence for each thought.
In other words, don’t say, “I see a chair, a table, a window, a wall, a blanket.”
Instead say something like, “I see a chair. It is brown. I see a table next to the chair. The table is cleared and clean. I see a window. It has dried rain spots on it. I see a wall. It is painted beige. I see a blanket. It is an afghan comprised of the colors, red, blue and green.”
Get the idea? The more we can engage in mindfulness, focusing our attention on one thought at a time, on thoughts that are based on observations of our current physical environment, the more calm and peaceful we will feel.
Now, give it a try and then let me know how it works for you.