Last week, I blogged about how expectations are pre-meditated resentments. One potentially life-changing technique to reduce our resentment is reducing our expectations in the first place. Expectations are directly tied to our ideas of what our future should hold. By being more present in the moment of here and now, we spend less time worrying about the future, thus less time creating new expectations. Buddhist spiritual teachings are a fantastic resource for ways to approach mindfulness and modern science is demonstrating the impact on our psychological well-being is real.
According to Buddhist teachings, part of human life is Suffering, which means anxiety, stress, resentment, or disquiet. This Suffering comes from human cravings or attachment to people, things, and events. Suffering ends when we release the craving or attachment. There are many ways to practice non-attachment, which would make this post way too long. Chiefly, meditation and self-awareness are helpful here.
In our busy, multi-tasking lives, it can seem nearly impossible to even comprehend what present moment mindfulness means. In our daily lives we rarely experience it, unless we make an effort to create it. As you reflect on your life, think about the times you have become completely immersed in an experience or an activity. Maybe you lost yourself watching your child playing, or maybe a truly excellent wine demanded your full attention. Sometimes at work we achieve what’s often called “flow” state, where our focus is totally present to the task at hand. If none of these experiences are familiar to you, here’s an activity that will help you understand what present moment mindfulness feels like.
A Hershey Kiss Moment
This activity is one of my favorites to introduce people to the experience of mindfulness.
- First, find a Hershey’s Kiss or some other bite-size chocholate
- Next, observe the chocolate, still in it’s wrapper. Notice the exact color of the wrapping, the weight of the candy in your hand. Observe the writing on the little paper sticking out of the top, how the foil fits together.
- Now, unwrap the candy and observe it again. Notice what you smell, the appearance of the chocolate. Notice the affect the candy is having on you. Starting to salivate?
- Finally, place the chocolate in your month. DON’T CHEW IT! Allow the Kiss to sit in your mouth. Notice the details of flavor, the texture as it melts, and how you respond. Luxuriate in your chocolate observations as long as you can before swallowing.
Now, I want you to reflect on how this experience compares to your normal candy eating experience. Did you enjoy it more? Did the chocolate seem more flavorful? Do you feel more satisfied? How much did your mind wander from the experience, if at all?
Congratulations – you experienced mindfulness! If this activity was nearly impossible for you to do, then it might be a good idea to reach out for some professional help, like mine. 🙂
Research Evidence for Mindfulness
Long-term pracitioners of mindfulness and meditation have argued that meditation is not only relaxing, it also has a long-term impact on brain structures and psychological health. Two types of mindfulness training are used in psychological counseling to help address stress and depression, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. A recent study at Massachusetts General Hospital provides evidence that eight weeks of daily meditation practice averaging 27 minutes in length created changes in the brain structures that impact learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. For more details: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-01-mindfulness-meditation-brain-weeks.html
Future posts will include more tips and tricks to bring your daily awareness to the present moment. I would love to hear how some of my readers increase their present-moment awareness!