Life is a series of present moments!

Showing Up In Our Own Lives

Thoughts from Milissa Castanza-Seymour

If being present brings us peace of mind and enhanced well-being, why is it that so few of us live mindfully? We function every day on a merry-go-round of activity that seems to spiral round and round until our head hits the pillow at night and even then we often can't sleep as our mind tosses and turns with our body. We are pulled in so many directions that mindfulness becomes a distant concept.

How can we make ourselves more present? How can we show up in our own life in a meaningful way, allowing mindfulness to take center stage? We can start by understanding what mindfulness is. The guru of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says that "Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally". Say that three times, savoring each part. Do we understand it better now? Of course not. Mindfulness is an experience, not an intellectual exercise. We have to take those words and turn them into a practice. We need to stop, drop, and inhabit the space we are in physically, mentally, and emotionally,

When we take the time to pause and just "be" we turn off automatic pilot and show up in our own life. Imagine day after day driving to a particular location only to arrive at the destination without remembering the trip. We have all done it. We're driving and suddenly find ourselves at an exit on the highway with no recollection of having passed the prior exits. It's a form of absenteeism to which we don't give much thought. We play with the kids while we think about deadlines at work. We work while we think about our to do list at home. We're missing in the daily action of our lives. If we act on Jon Kabat-Zinn's explanation of mindfulness, we press the pause button and show up. We practice mindfulness. When we play with the kids, we play with the kids. When we are writing a report for work, we just write. When we are washing dishes, we wash dishes. Period. We're not thinking about what's next or what was. We are experiencing the present, without judgment.

What is the best way to start practicing mindfulness? Let's start one moment at a time. Take time each day to just check-in with yourself. Just as you might call or drop a text to a friend to see how they are doing, do so for yourself. Make a point to pause multiple times a day for 2-3 minutes and "be". Take a breath and feel your body sensations. Follow your breath as it moves in your body and just be with it. Breathe into any tension and exhale through that space. Or notice what emotion you are feeling in that moment. Acknowledge your feeling by naming it. Sit with it and take a few breaths. These are what I like to call "mindful bits". Mindfulness can be practiced in "bits and bites". Starting with "bits" is a simple way to become more aware as we go through the day.

So, that is your homework for now. Pause and breathe as often as you can remember. Check-in with yourself like you would a dear friend. If you check-in five times today but twice tomorrow, don't judge yourself. If you find yourself distracted in those 2-3 minutes of quiet breathing, don't critique your effort. The key to the experience is to be gentle with yourself, kindly redirecting your attention back to your breath and the moment you are experiencing. If you feel ambitious, take any activity from reading a book to washing the dog, to listening to a friend, and practice being fully present without wandering off mentally. And, if you do, redirect yourself back like you would a curious child. Be good to yourself. Your non-judgmental awareness will grow with your practice and the rewards will be worth the effort!