Do you know what the common regret most people have when nearing death? A palliative nurse says, “it is not having lived their own life, but having lived the one that others wanted them to live; in having unfulfilled dreams due to choices made or not made.”
Could Being Mindful be the Key?
If I’m honest with myself, I know I’m not mindful all the time, and I don’t think I am alone in this. Is it our natural state to be mindful? We all have tasks, habits, and patterns in our lives which serve us well. We don’t really need to think about how to do any of these things, and that’s the problem. We are told there are many benefits to developing a practice of being mindful, but what does it mean and how do we develop it?
Mindfulness practices, as we know them today, are rooted in ancient Buddhist meditation. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of modern day mindfulness, “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
We can develop mindfulness skills through meditation, yoga, painting, hiking, knitting, washing the dishes, noticing our bodies, and our breathing — these are all good starting points. When I’m beading, I often become very aware of the texture of a gemstone and its origin deep beneath the earth’s surface millions of years ago. That doesn’t mean that you can’t also find this peace when working with man-made creations. As I create jewelry with beads, the beauty of working with artisan blown glass takes my breath away.
These moments of awareness are the very first step to being mindful. Learning to stretch those moments out, to slow down and savor what you’re doing, is the hardest part. I know there’s no rush, and this practice could be a really good thing. Or, at least, it definitely would be for me.
I realized over time that I didn’t pay much attention to being mindful. Turning inward and being reflective were not familiar experiences until I came upon a transformative program which I’ve been participating in over many years. I learned to be aware, to stop, think and act, beyond my automatic existing views and not to behave as though my perceptions were the truth. I’ve been able to bring this awareness into my personal, business and professional lives, as well as into many relationships.
There are many paths that can lead us toward a reflective practice. Sometimes we’ll seek it out because of significant events in our lives, such as menopause, job loss, divorce, an empty nest, a move or a disability. Being mindful can help us to look at each of these life-impacting experiences as an opportunity for a journey, one that could lead us to realign ourselves so we no longer have to regret not living true to our heart’s desires
Practice of Mindfulness
One of the more difficult tasks to being mindful is to ‘Be Present’. As a chronic multi-tasker, my greatest challenge is to be in the ‘moment’. My mental task list is always present and I can’t even just listen to music or watch a TV show — I always have paper and pen or my iPhone at hand. Taking notes dominates my life!
So, how can we adopt a new perspective in order to add this awareness to our daily lives? Remember what it was like when you first moved to a new area? You paid attention to every sight, sound, and smell. And then it all became familiar and you stopped paying attention. Today, we often arrive at our destination without having been present for the entire drive. Taking a new route by taking yourself, out of your comfort zone, can kickstart those feelings and force us into the present.
Being mindful of the immediate world around you is a good place to start and a step in the right direction.
It has been proven that mindfulness improves well-being. Our attitude toward our life determines the level of satisfaction with it. If it’s whizzing by, we cannot enjoy the daily pleasures as they occur. It also helps to engage more fully in the day-to-day activities; it expands our capacity to deal with adversities. Many people who practice mindfulness find they are less likely to worry about the future or have regrets about the past.
Being Mindful – How I Intend to Take it Forward
We are already in what always seems to be the busiest months of the year. November and December are magical months filled with family, friends and a childlike joy that bring back memories. The older we get, the more memories we have collected and the more we forget!
Can being mindful help hold onto our memories? I believe so. I want to remember these special times with family. I often think I do, but if you ask me details about last Thanksgiving, I might not be able to recall. I know I wasn’t being fully present to the day. I can remember some of it, small things; the joy of being surrounded by loved ones, the delicious smells wafting from my daughter-in-law’s kitchen, and the taste of a hint of lemon in the cranberries. Wouldn’t it be great to recollect more?
It is a really busy season for us and this year my intention on Thanksgiving is to focus on the present moment. When I drift onto autopilot, as my mind thinks about my to-do list for Friday, I intend to pull myself back to the present. I want to be able to describe my day, my feelings, surroundings and make a memory to stay with me as I grow older gracefully.
I don’t know about you, but by mid-January, I often feel that I need to decompress. So, this year, I am going to continue our year of mindfulness, and whilst walking through the remainder of November and December, I will try to:
- Be aware of the moment, enjoy it and not rush into tomorrow.
- Spend time being with those I love rather than fussing around.
- Connect with and cherish the connections, new and old, that come my way during this Holiday season.
- Give thanks for all that I have, for the people I know and have known, and for my continued place on this earth.
It seems like a tall order, because November and December are so busy, and we are by no means perfect. So, I’ll keep these watchwords for mindfulness close by throughout the months to remind myself to stop, breathe, and enjoy. Staying true to one’s values allows us to live authentically and will reduce the chance of having that common regret. The opportunity is now; it’s time to tune into yourself and do an internal check of where you are.
As I write this blog in the series Aging Gracefully, and for the week of Thanksgiving, my wish is for each of us to be in love with our own life. Being mindful of the life we have guides our gratitude, not just on one special day of the year, but every day. We have no idea when our last day will arrive, so each day has to be lived “as if”. If we are living a life in sync with our personal goals, values, and passions, it is likely we will truly enjoy our life. I feel so blessed that I am creating my life with no regrets.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We’d love to hear how you approach being mindful.