“The problem isn’t that we have bodies, the problem is that we’re not living in them.” – Geneen Roth
When I talk to people about the concept of mindfulness, their eyes usually glaze over. I use a person’s reactions to my initial comments as a gauge to help me figure out how far to go with the topic. Honestly, there are few people who get very far with me on this. I’m not saying that I’m that much more of an expert, conceptually I probably am, but experientially I’m working on it just like everyone else.
The answer to stress relief (and probably happiness) is always going to be mindfulness.
The interesting thing is that we can know this, but because it is opposite of how we train ourselves (and our parents and teachers train us) to be, it seems too difficult to manage at most times. I do see it in a similar light as smoking. If you tell a smoker that they should stop because it’s an unhealthy habit and will most definitely lead to diseases and poor health later, they listen and even believe you. But if they’re not “ready” they don’t quit smoking even if they understand how bad it is.
Living outside of the moment you’re in has the exact same effect—and I daresay it could be even more likely to kill you in the long run.
We tend to live in angst over what is not going on in this moment—our thighs are not the size we want them, our job is not as rewarding as we wish it was, our family doesn’t appreciate us like they should, the dirty dishes are piled up, we’re in a meeting with people we don’t want to be with, traffic is too slow, etc. Whatever your plight, you’ve got a choice (1) to remain in your own body and experience whatever is happening now without resistance, (2) to get angry/frustrated, or (3) to try and avoid experiencing it (by trying to avoid feeling things like pain and stress). Right now, being angry or escaping (i.e. smoking the cigarette) may provide relief. Later, you’re much worse off.
A great question to ask yourself:
When I’m washing the dishes, am I trying to wash them as fast as possible so I’ll be done with them, or am I just washing the dishes and feeling the textures, temperature, and water?
If you answered that you’re trying to get them done, then you’re likely not so much of an in-the-moment person. Don’t worry—this is common in our culture, and we promote this in many ways as a country. We can, however, work on it and get better.
The key is that we have to actually work on it to get better.
The next time you’re frustrated, sad, tired, overwhelmed—do some soft belly breathing, make a mental list of what is awesome about this moment (after all, a dead person doesn’t get to have any thighs at all and would probably not be complaining about non-perfect alive ones). Our bodies are our own small pieces of real estate—if we hate our bodies or we are not connecting with them all the time, we are poisoning other areas of our lives and we’re not being mindful. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on being the best you can be, but it’s your approach and thoughts that make the difference.
Go on a walk and breathe and smell and experience (maybe not today—it’s way too cold outside!). I find that yoga helps me enjoy moving and being in my body, but the best way is for you to explore your own way of being present.
You can also practice being mindful when you eat. I’ll present a mindful eating exercise soon.