Paying attention. Slowing down. Do those words automatically incite some casual eye rolling? Or do these words perhaps cause you to raise your eyebrows, lean in and listen?
Regardless of your initial reaction, these words can help us live enriched lives – mentally & physically.
I think, to some extent, we are all searching for “something”. Something that is missing. Something that we have no idea what it even is. But it feels large and significant and daunting. It feels relentless.
Why Can’t I Stop Thinking?
It’s that sluggish feeling. That inability to get out of bed in the morning. That fatigue that slaps you in the face (but unfortunately without the effect of waking you out of your stupor). You know what I’m talking about.
It’s like this weight dragging you down. But what IS it? How do we get rid of it if we can’t even identify what it is?
It’s US. We are dragging our very own selves down. With our very own minds.
One thing that has become unavoidably (believe me, I tried…) clear is this: there is no way to THINK yourself out of anything. Thinking our way to clarity does not happen. In fact, thinking is what got us into this mess in the first place!
What Finally Made “Mindfulness” Make Sense
If you’re feeling a sense of confusion or lack of direction or general apathy or dissatisfaction and are searching for their better halves –clarity, inspiration and fulfillment – continuing to fill your already-stuffed mind with even more thoughts is just going to add fuel to the fire.
We all know mindfulness has its health benefits, both physically and mentally. But if this is supposed to involve quieting your (what often feels psychotic) mind, it seems nearly impossible.
But, I’ve come to understand (the hard way) that it is not really possible to turn OFF the mind. Again, believe me, I’ve tried. So how do we find that “inner calm” we hear about? How do we get this weight off of us so we can feel more energized, physically and mentally?
Instead of trying to live in a vacuum, void of thoughts, there is something else we can do. We have to bring our thoughts out of the dark closet and hang them out to dry. In fact, hang those thoughts out in the indescribably unbearable & baking heat of the desert sun. Hang them out so they get so dried out that they begin to lose their luster. So they lose their power, they shrink, they get washed out, they become useless.
How To Gain Control Over Your Mind
The way to inner calm is starting to make itself more clear to me. Instead of turning inward and letting our mind continue to spin into yet another monstrous tornado, we must turn outward. This, at first, seems counterintuitive. This is especially true if you tend to be an introspective, quiet person.
This doesn’t mean resigning your post as a wallflower. You can still keep your back comfortably up against the wall, but while you’re there, simply start paying attention. I’ll explain, I promise.
This was, no pun intended, brought to my attention in a book I am reading right now called “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity”.
The author goes on a long description of these letters that her grandmother used to send her. They were saturated with details – details of seemingly unimportant information. But those details were what kept her grandmother grounded in life. They kept her grounded rather than swirling above the ground in the all too familiar tornado of an overactive mind.
“My grandmother was gone before I learned the lesson her letters were teaching: survival lies in sanity, and sanity lies in paying attention.
My grandmother knew what a painful life had taught her: success or failure, the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.
It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me to pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have to pay attention to right now.”
Pay attention to the little things around you. Pay attention to the sights, the sounds, the smells. Immerse yourself in your surroundings. As soon as we pay attention to the little delights, our brain becomes enriched with stimuli that boost our creative juices. And our creative juices are what spur us into action.
The Life Changing Power Of Paying Attention
I thought I knew what being present meant until I read that. My hope is that this sheds a little light on what being present and mindful really looks like in action. My hope is that is takes the pressure off having to learn to control or dampen or quiet your thoughts, but instead, redirect them to what is in front of you.
When we pay attention to the world around us, we can pay less attention to our self-sabotaging thoughts. And when we delight our senses with all the world has to offer, we can begin to be naturally & positively stimulated. This is in contrast, of course, to letting our unruly mind negatively & unnecessarily stimulate us).
Then, just maybe then, we can escape our minds, lift that obnoxious weight off our shoulders and feel the energy seep back into us. So we can go out in the world and chase our dreams and goals with full strength, confidence and resilience.
I truly believe we can achieve anything we want to. Key word: want. The desire has to be there. But if we keep getting in our own way, we will never get anywhere.
So…are you ready to cultivate your mental and physical strength so you can create the life you’ve always known deep down you could have? I thought so ☺