A friend of mine recently expressed her desire to be more aware of the present. She was so caught up in planning for her future that she forgot to stop and appreciate all of the things she had already accomplished. That’s not to say planning is unimportant. It is absolutely critical for success, but a level of awareness for what you already have will strengthen planning.
I work in a tall building downtown. I drive there every morning with the thousands of other commuters who leave their cozy suburban homes for the glamour of city life. I sit in my cubicle and do my work. I refill my coffee cup in a repeated mindless habit.
At noon, I walk three blocks to the library. This has become my favorite part of the day. See, next to the library is the reading garden. Like a tree that grows in Brooklyn, the space is a little piece of tranquility in the concrete jungle. Every day I sit in this small paradise. I eat my lunch. I read my book. I watch the people around me.
I watch the mother who rolls a stroller up next to the fountain where she unpacks a picnic for her and her child. I watch the businessmen sit in pairs, ties loosened as they eat the brown bag lunches that their wives packed for them. I watch the twenty something girl sitting with her nose in a book, not remotely distracted by the activity around her.
These people are happy, very simply happy. The mother smiles at her child as if the sun shines out of his face. The men laugh at something completely unrelated to the office. The reader sits with eyes wide as she absorbs an adventure dreamed up by some little known author.
Practicing mindfulness begins with taking the time out of your day to just sit and observe. Some of the world’s most successful people claim that their path to success began with mindfulness. Many of them swear by the power of meditation. We don’t all possess the patience for meditation but there are other ways to achieve a meditative state of mind. I personally gravitate towards music. One of my favorite summer songs is a Jack Johnson classic called Breakdown. He expresses concern for the speed at which we live our lives. We miss what goes on around us. We walk past opportunities for new friends, moments of happiness, and valuable life lessons. He sings:
I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around, see what there is to see.
Time is just a melody with all the people in the street walking fast as their feet can take them. I just roll through town.
When I’m at school, I rush through everything. Rush to class. Rush to the gym. Rush to chapter. Rush to appointments and meetings. Granted I’m usually late, but once I arrive, I’m ready to rush on to the next thing. I sit impatiently with my phone in my hand checking emails and texts. Do you ever get so caught up in checking for texts that you forget that you never responded to one you received earlier? I do it all the time. Do you ever walk across campus and not actually look at your campus? I do. All the time.
Well this engine screams out loud, centipede gonna crawl westbound
So I don’t even make a sound, because it’s gonna sting me when I leave this town
and all the people in the street that I’ll never get to meet if these tracks don’t bend somehow.
And I got no time that I got to get to where I don’t need to be.
Americans seem to lack a certain level of social presence. We avoid eye contact and ignore people around us in line. Half the time we’re just too busy getting to where we don’t need to be, absorbed in our own day-to-day worries and routines. Heaven forbid we strike up a conversation with the people around us, perhaps learn something about their life and add a piece of their story to our own. Not everyone is chatty and that’s perfectly fine, but just looking up and offering a kind smile is better than hiding from human interaction.
You can’t stop nothing, if you got no control of the things in your mind that you kept,
And you know, you don’t know nothing that you don’t need to know.
The wisdom’s in the trees not the glass windows.
You can’t stop wishing, if you don’t let go of the things that you find and you lose
Often the solutions to our problems are perfectly simple. They sit directly in front of us waving their arms in an attempt to get our attention, but our perspective is skewed. We lack awareness of our surroundings, of our end goals, and of our own passions. We blindly press on hoping things will get better. We forget to reflect, therefore me fail to learn. Again, “you can’t stop nothing if you got not control of the things in your mind.”
If you want to be more mindful, here’s my advice. Think. Do yoga. Meditate. Talk to people. Share ideas. Be aware. Use your talents. You have the potential to do big things and be great. Your moment is now. Live in it.