When I think of mindfulness – the practice of staying present and aware of the thoughts, emotions and experiences of the Now – I’m reminded a lot of the concept of sleep. Sleep is something that happens only after you’ve created the perfect setting for it. The more you stress about going to sleep, the more elusive sleep gets. That’s why we say you “fell” asleep. No one runs or forces or pushes themselves to sleep. When you create the right setting, sleep is effortless and has nothing to do with you!
Mindfulness often works the same way. You can’t force yourself to live in the moment. To create mindfulness, people may tell you “Go meditate for 20 minutes” or “Create more stillness.” Mindfulness isn’t a to-do item. These activities may be beneficial, but they also just make us more focused on the future and draw us out of the Now.
Instead of trying to be mindful, I try to create space for mindfulness. If you set the stage just right, you naturally breathe your way into being present. To start, invoke acceptance. What’s going on in your life right now as you’re reading this? Look at it without judgment, without labelling it “good” or “bad.” That includes accepting and experiencing the emotions related to this present moment even if they are what you may call “negative” emotions. “I am stressed” or “I am sad” or even “I am happy” are okay to feel.
Don’t fight it. Our natural tendency is to judge the present moment, and then either hold onto it because it’s “good” or run from it because it’s “bad.” But when you invoke acceptance and simply acknowledge what you’re experiencing and how you’re feeling, you create a setting for being mindful and open space for you to truly live in present awareness.
Joshua Duvauchelle is a health writer and certified personal
trainer in Vancouver, B.C.