When I wrote my post about self-care, one of the techniques I mentioned was meditation. Meditation is amazing, but a higher level, it’s important to exercise and condition the mind. We spend so much money on fitness classes and programs, various supplements, athletic wear and the like, and yet we spend so little time taking care of our minds, when it’s equally if not more important.
I get it; the mind isn’t something you can’t see tangible change in. When you exercise and diet, the results are visible when you look in the mirror. You can see the fat melt away, the muscle start to form, and you become more flexible. You can track your progress, measuring things like weight, body fat percentage, and even your mile time. Pictures help to document the change, and these physical transformations are truly something to behold. A buddy of mine recently lost over fifty pounds, and I hardly recognize him.
The mind is a different animal altogether. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone has their baggage, their own traumatic experiences, and their own crosses to bear. When you look at an individual, you probably can’t tell what they’re thinking, if their mind is calm and at ease, or if it’s a cluttered mess. That’s how it feels for me when I let my mind go unattended; it feels cluttered, like everything is piling up, like all of my issues are coming to the surface, and the combination seems to snowball. It influences how I act in my everyday life. It makes me feel more desperate, more on edge. I sometimes snap at people in situations when I’m usually calm. Things that don’t faze me become devastating. That’s when I know that something has to happen, that I need to see my therapist or seek out the council of a friend. As I’ve written before, I often wait until I’m in this state before getting help.
If you know someone well enough, you can almost always tell if something is off, if the issues are piling up. It’s kind of amazing; sometimes close friends are able to spot the change before you do, especially if they haven’t seen you in a while. They call it out, notice that something is amiss, that your habits and they way you’re acting are fundamentally different. It can be frightening to realize how far away from center you’ve drifted, but hopefully these very same friends are there for you and they’ll support you.
I’m often thinking about a million different things at the same time. We live in a society predicated on multitasking, and that can have an adverse effect on people. It can make people feel disorganized and overloaded. This overload can lead to anxiety, and worrying about things well before they happen, if they happen at all. It’s like opening the door of a moving truck: any one of those objects individually isn’t difficult to move, but when you see everything in one place, the thought of moving it all can seem daunting and near impossible.
It’s important to practice the fine art of mindfulness. Mindfulness keeps me focused on the task at hand, rather than thinking about everything I’m not doing. When my mind wanders, I say something like, “Stay with us Adam,” under my breath, and bring my focus back to the current moment. Us, in this specific case, refers to the rest of general population. Stay in the real world. Stay with the real people and don’t drift off into your head and into your imagination.
When I get lost in my thoughts, sometimes it’s nice, but most of the time there’s little solace to be found. I never feel productive when I rehash old memories and slights and disappointments, and sometimes I go to a dark place. That’s where mindfulness comes in. It keeps me in the moment I’m in. It pulls me out of my trance, and keeps me focused on the situation right in front of me, which has become so pivotal to the calm state of mind that I’ve been in. Mindfulness keeps me in conversations with friends, it keeps me focused on a project, it keeps me engaged in a workout. I’m not thinking about the past or the future, about things I’m worried about. I’m not thinking about situations where I’ll have to speak in public (which still unsettles me), or about something that could go wrong. I’m just here.
Mindfulness has become so important to me, especially since I haven’t sat down and meditated in a few years. Most days I just run out of time, but I know it’d be helpful if I did it with any regularity. I know what it feels like when I meditate; it feels like I have more space in my head, and the things that bother me seem to subside, or to lessen in intensity. I feel much calmer, even Zen. I’ve felt that Zen lately, and hope it’s here to stay. I’ve recently started a new job, and it’s giving me the structure I need. Mindfulness has helped me keep my mind on the task at hand, to pay attention to a coworker when they’re teaching me something, and to stay calm and interact with total strangers at crowded and chaotic events, without feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people.
Mindfulness keeps me focused on each individual item in the moving truck. It allows me to live each and every day as its own entity, and I’m no longer focused on anything else but my present reality. Mindfulness pulls me out of my thoughts to focus on life as it happens, and I’m so thankful that I’m finally attaining some level of peace, which has seemed so elusive in my adult life. Mindfulness helps me worry less about aging, and has proven to be effective in mitigating my anxiety. It truly is an incredible thing to just live every day, and to allow yourself to be present in all of life’s amazing moments. Thanks for reading.