The truth is that most of us go through the day on autopilot, or else we are in the midst of endless chatter of internal thoughts. This can often cause a disconnection with the present moment.
As we walk to work, or move through our day, we may be thinking of the events of the previous evening, of an incident from childhood or perhaps an argument that we have had- these are all things from the past. Or else we are projecting into the future- worrying about what the day will hold, planning what we will do when we get to work or a party or what we should be doing. By the time we get to our destination we may not be able to remember anything about the journey because we have not engaged in its reality.
Mindfulness calls on us to come out of living in the past or future, and to simply be in the present moment.
There are clearly times when we need to reflect on the past or plan for our future and move away, for a time, from our present state. We need to give attention to what has occurred in our life in order to understand it and how we reacted or are still reacting.
Experiencing the death of a loved one, specifically our husband, is likely one of the most life changing occurrences we have experienced.
It is paramount that you take the time you need to move in and out and through the emotions and stages of grief, so that you can come out on the other side, healthy and whole.
Conversely, we need to project our thoughts forward too, to plan our time in order to use it effectively. We can still think about the past and future when we are being mindful- we can also enjoy a happy daydream…more on daydreams below. All of this is good and healthy, as long as we are aware that we are thinking in the past or the future. We are being intentional in our mind space, spending the appropriate length of time in the past, present and future. This will alleviate and minimize the time that we are being swept back and forth by the blustery activity in our mind.
BEING VERSUS DOING ....When you are in a state of mindfulness the mind has two modes, “being” and “doing.” When the brain is in ‘doing’ mode, it is focused outwards, on achievement and problem-solving. The ‘doing’ mind seeks to evaluate, compartmentalize, create, and compare. The doing mind is essential in everyday life. The doing mode is what we use when we need to progress in our day, at work, or in our life. Some examples of doing are, meeting a deadline, planting the flowers, taking a walk, making a to-do list, etc.
Our minds are powerful and brilliant at coming up with an idea and taking steps to accomplish the task. The problem comes when we no longer need to or are not able to achieve or solve problems. This can be because we do not have the tools or resources, OR it can be due to limiting beliefs that we perceive to be true.
Life is a journey not a destination!
At this point, we should become mindful and shift into the more restful state of ‘being’ mode. Until we build the skill, of shifting our thinking and state of being, and begin to experience the power of shifting our thoughts, practice the skill and master the skill, we may be prone to slipping back into the endless chatter that has consumed us in the past. Our mind wants to keep on processing, even when what it is doing is pointless or even quite possibly harmful to our well-being.
Mindfulness seeks to move the mind from ‘doing’ to ‘being’ by consciously directing the attention to our inner-self, to our breathing, and to our body sensations and also to the outer world as we take notice of sight, sounds, smell, taste and touch. ‘Being’ is deeply soothing, but it does not mean zoning out with TV, harmful drugs or too much alcohol, or other forms of escapism. ‘Being’ mode means we are very much aware and alive to our environment, we experience the incredible richness of the world around us, sometimes for the very first time. We are able to grasp the reality around us and focus on what is, rather than the dream or illusion of what we would like.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a vast difference in obsessing about the future and daydreaming. Daydreaming gets a bad rap but can be very beneficial. How many times were you admonished by teachers or parents for letting your mind wander rather than paying attention to something else? Even now as an adult you may feel pangs of guilt when you realize you have been far, far away in a happy daydream.
Let the guilt go. Studies reveal that not only is daydreaming very common, it is also actually good for us. Further the studies show that when we let our minds wander, numerous areas of the brain are activated. This is good for everyone!
As widows, it is normal that we forget that we are actually able to control our emotions. There is such a flood of grief and sadness that our rational thinking is compromised. Don’t be discouraged, with mindfulness we are able to renew our thinking and sooth our fraught nerves. It is over time, with work and support that we can begin to recover, reclaim and redesign our lives. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does take time and work for all wounds to heal.
Take heart, if you HAVE A DESIRE to embrace a healthy state of mindfulness, you can learn and achieve it!
Being mindful is a simple tool that you can hone over time, it is simply a type of training for the mind. You can practice and greatly benefit from mindfulness, whatever your own beliefs may be.