Getting out of my own head

selective focus photography of spark

I’m standing in my bathroom, having just washed my hands, and I’m too busy to stop for a moment. I was squirming in my desk chair, wanting to finish what I had been doing before running to the loo. But I promised myself that every time I went to the bathroom, I would stop everything and take a short moment of mindfulness. That moment seems way too long right now. What was I thinking? Then another thought pops into my head: how nice would it be to take a break from my busy mind and enjoy mindful, peaceful silence?

What do I mean by “mindful”? Mindfulness is the art of paying attention to just one thing. That can be your breathing, walking, being fully present with a friend, immersing yourself in a hobby, or any number of things. A lot of the noise in our heads is distraction: thoughts about things that are not relevant right now. Many thoughts and worries are very important, but it is rarely necessary to think about them all the time. Mindfulness teaches you to be able to put aside distractions, create quiet in your mind, and focus on what is happening in the moment. Important thoughts will pop up again at a better time for you to deal with them.

I’ve got a goal for this year. Actually, it has been my goal for about ten years. That is, to meditate every day. After so many years of not achieving this goal I decided to change my approach. If twenty minutes was too long, why not one second? Who decided that twenty minutes was the best anyway?

I do one moment- one second! – of mindfulness practice every day.

I’ve been playing with “mindful moments” since lockdown began last year. I have a list of mindfulness techniques (such as listening to the sounds around me, or counting my breaths) and I do one moment- one second! – of mindfulness practice every day. I wrote down these techniques and agreed with myself that success is: doing one mindful moment every day. This might not seem like much, but it is a very powerful practice. Day by day I was creating space for peacefulness in my life.

It went great. I kept a stack of “mindfulness cards” in the kitchen and did one moment every morning. Soon I expanded my commitment to take a mindful moment every time I went to the bathroom. At first it was fun and novel. Then it became a bit of a chore and I slipped back to once a day. I didn’t look at this as failture – afterall, success is “doing one mindful moment every day”. After a few months, things began to change.

To me, mindfulness is comforting and brings me clarity.

That one daily moment of peacefulness became more enjoyable and meaningful for me. The sense of quiet peacefulness grew. The process was transforming from an abstract goal into a personal practice; it was becoming a part of me. The deep understanding that I could create this peaceful oasis for myself whenever I wanted empowered me. I began to apply mindful moments in all sorts of situations when I felt overwhelmed or emotionally unsafe.

Mindfulness is an anchor to the present moment. Being mindful allows me to focus and be more productive in my work and to be more skilled in my relationships. To me, mindfulness is comforting and brings me clarity. When I stop the endless rushing of my thoughts, I realise that I don’t have to be an angry or fearful person. I can be this person now, in this moment, breathing. Being mindful allows me to let go of judgements about myself and others. I can see and think more clearly.

I still don’t meditate for twenty minutes every day and I might never do that. I have let go of the “should”. I do look forward to taking a mindful pause before I begin my day, and short moments throughout. The benefits of mindfulness are cumulative, which means that it is quantity over duration. If you can give yourself just one second of mindfulness every day, you will feel the benefits grow with time. If you do a long meditation just once a week, the benefits will be fewer.

You can try it for yourself! Get creative with your moments. When could you fit in one second of noticing your breathing, or listening to the sounds around you? You can sign up to my Mindful Moments email course below for guidance and inspiration. Embrace your messy, distracted, mind and rejoice that you have taken a tiny moment of your day just for you. Giving yourself this kindness will make it easier to be kind to others. Kindness is, after all, the greatest contagion.

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