et’s face it, mindfulness is pretty simple. It’s about directing our attention to the moment in front of us. So if we’re in the shower, we place our attention on shampooing our hair, not on thinking through the five things we need to get done once we’re out of the shower. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh famously said:
“If you’re doing the dishes, be mindful of doing the dishes.”
So why is it that something so simple is so difficult? [I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the shower, my mind is everywhere but the shower.]
Answer: The human mind loves to wander. And that’s not a good thing for our mental, physical or spiritual wellness.
Just do it!
So what can we do to improve our mindfulness practices? First, let’s state yet another obvious point: The key to practicing mindfulness is to just do it. It’s not the slightest bit complicated. Be here, now. The only reason we don’t do it is because we forget…when we’re in the shower, the car, brushing our teeth, etc.
How can we get ourselves to NOT forget to be present in our everyday moments? The answer came to me in the shower yesterday when I realized I’d been in the Bahamas for a couple minutes. My thought bubble was, “Gee, how can I get myself to not drift off into thought when I’m showering?”
Captain Obvious to the rescue
It was at that moment that I, just like Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk, metamorphosed into Captain Obvious, the only superhero whose superpower I possess.
“I’ve got it!” Captain Obvious (I) said. “I just need to put up notes in places where my mind usually drifts into pointless thoughts!”
Yes, that’s it. That’s my obvious suggestion. But think about it. This could really work.
What do you do? Make it easy and simple to start.
Step One: Think of the places where you normally go off to La-La Land. For most of us, that would be our bathroom sink, where we brush our teeth every morning, the shower, our car and our desk at work. If you cook a lot, put one on your refrigerator door. So let’s start with those five or, of course, add any more that apply to you. All you need to do is get a pad of post-it notes, or if you don’t have those, a simple piece of paper with tape will do. Then put a reminder note at each of those spots.
Step Two: What do we write on those notes? I put one up this morning on my bathroom mirror that reads “Here, now.” I put one on my desk that reads “Breathe.” Other ideas would be “Five breaths,” “Be present,” “Come back to the present.” Use whichever ones resonate most with you.
The key is to just do it! Again, the only reason most of us fail to live up to our mindfulness standards is that we forget when we get lost in thought. These notes will help keep us rooted in the moment.
Spruce things up later
Once you’ve gotten the simple post-it note thing done, consider spiffing things up a bit. Maybe print out a photo of a pastoral scene that is special to you — your favorite beach in Hawaii, a lake house setting from your childhood, a beautiful sunset…Put these up in those five (or more) spots where you most often travel to Thoughtlandia. And either write directly on that photo or simply put the post-it note on it.
That’s all for now. Until I come up with my next brilliantly obvious idea, this is Captain Obvious…out.