By Jimmy Warden
Have you ever wanted to be where your feet are? Do you notice thoughts in your mind wandering away from the present moment? Does your focus drift when you’re in a conversation with someone?
If so, you’re human. It happens to all of us. One tool that can be an antidote to those questions is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a topic I’ve written about before. A year ago, I wrote a post about misconceptions and real applications of mindfulness. In the post, I explain what people misunderstand about the practice and how it can be applied in daily life. I did not, however, explain how powerful it can be.
A quick reminder about the principles of mindfulness. My working definition of mindfulness is as follows: an individual’s ability to sustain focus in the present moment without judgment. There are a lot of layers to that ability, but I do not want to overcomplicate the definition of the simple practice.
One powerful component of having a mindfulness practice is the skill of acceptance without judgment. This may seem a bit counterintuitive because one must make a judgment to accept something as it is, but once that happens, no further judgment is made. There is an acceptance of the current state. There is no judgment of good or bad, right or wrong, helpful or hurtful. It just is.
The skill of acceptance without judgment helps tremendously with our emotions. Oftentimes, we experience stress in the forms of anxiety, depression, being overwhelmed, apprehensiveness, etcetera. The reason we have labels for those feelings is to judge our emotional state of being, and that allows us to determine whether we’re feeling good or bad. In reality, there are no positive or negative emotions; there are simply emotions. Sure, some have positive physiological effects and others have negative physiological effects, but all emotions serve a purpose.
Understanding that removes the personal stigma we place on ourselves when we say we’re anxious or depressed. Instead, we could label it as an anxious experience or a depressive episode. Realizing we are not our emotions is a form of acceptance that allows us to experience them without judgment. This realization can bring us more bliss and feelings of content to our lives.
When we experience more bliss and contentment, we are less anxious and depressed by default. We’re okay with the way life is, so we don’t feel the need to compare ourselves to others, pursue status, or wish for a different life. We’ve removed expectations for what our life should be like. This opens the door to being fully aware and being part of the present moment. And this is where the ultimate power lies.
Our ability to be present is where most of the power of mindfulness lies. We live in an age of distraction, expectations, and anxiety. We fixate on mistakes we’ve made in the past or potential outcomes that probably won’t come true. We compare ourselves to everyone around us, and we turn our attention from what we’re doing every time we hear the ding of our smart phone. We get overwhelmed by the emotions that are produced from all of this. All of those factors make it difficult for us to find joy in the present moment.
It might not be easy to find joy in the present moment, especially if there’s nothing to be joyful about. With mindfulness, we can find peace, and be at ease with the present. Even when it’s grim. Because mindfulness doesn’t have an agenda aside from awareness and acceptance. When the storm is rough, we must acknowledge it and accept it in order to do something about it. Without that ability to acknowledge and accept the present, there would be no awakening to change.
Living with that awareness is what helps us be where our feet are. It creates unity with the moment. We’re able to soak in what’s around us. We take it all in. In a new light. A new perspective. Because we’ve never experienced this current moment until now. Living with this sense of awe and wonder with each passing moment is what mindfulness is all about.
Being here, now. As we are.