Mindfulness In an Age of Distraction
Let go of your worries
and be completely clear-hearted like the face of a mirror
that contains no images…
Mv. Jalaluddin Rumi
The following is a transcript from our talk at Hope for Exceptional Needs in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hope is the leading bilingual centre in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded by Dr. Uzma Raheem, which promotes the education, awareness, and success of all families with children who have Special Needs of every kind.
In an age of distraction we aim to regain an understanding on a subject which intrigues our imagination, in theory appears to be new age wishful thinking and in reality a lost way of life.
What is Mindfulness?
According to Mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”
When man has full awareness of his thoughts, is able to pay attention to them, without judgement, and keeps his consciousness in the now, in the present, in the moment, in the very second of right here, right now and not be distracted with the inner pendulum which swings between past and present over and over, he is in a state of mindfulness.
In a practical, no nonsense understanding of mindfulness, let us go over a few relatable instances which the majority of us face on a day to day basis.
lack of focus
lack of stillness
sporadic zoning out
Believe it or not, the lack of mindfulness in our lives has become the number one if not the culprit of the aforementioned issues we face which cause us anything but a peace of mind.
On the other hand, when mindfulness becomes our way of life, we open ourselves to immeasurable levels of peace, joy, contentment, love, stability, order, focus and great achievements.
Origins of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is perceived to be a heavenly gift to man. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and the majority all spiritual traditions have emphasized the concept of flow, being present and practicing mindfulness as a core discipline. Traditionally, seekers and adherents were taught the fundamentals of concentration, meditation, stillness, breath work and emptying the mind. All these disciplines lead to the state of being PRESENT.
Numerous teachings on the practical implementation of mindfulness may be found and learnt through living teachers, guides, books, self development programs, and age old traditions ranging from Tai Chi, Yoga, Chi Gong and a variety of other forms. One of the most commonly advocated practice is through breath work; focusing on one’s breath. This practice channels the distracted ‘Monkey Mind’ from past drama of the Why’s and the future illusion of the what if’s by bringing one’s attention to breath, its subtle sound, grounding our focus in the now.
Now to life, now to the moment, now to action creates reaction and keeps one aloof from the abyss of the deadly twins; past and future.
When man occupies his throughs in the past of future, he begins the process of storytelling, creating tall tales, fables and his interpretation of events which are only throughs and not necessarily reality. Excessive dwelling on either past or future keeps us from action. Essentially our actions result from thought and emotion. This mental occupation of constant thought distraction fails to produce focus, concentration and significant action which are key ingredients to change.
Evidence of the Lack of Mindfulness in our Everyday Life
a messy bed
open toothpaste tube
un flushed toilet
forgetfulness in prayer
inability to focus on what the other person is saying
loss of personal belongings
a disorganized purse where keys cannot be located
car lights left on
tap left running
front door left ajar
loved ones constantly saying, “you are not listening to me!”
Dwelling on the past
Dwelling thoughts on the future
and the list goes on
These are some of the proofs we can find as evidence in our very environment as to where we are in our thoughts. These proofs are great clues which serve as self check reminders of what is happening internally. The interesting thing here is that it would take mindfulness to detect our own lack of. Mindfulness is not constant, it requires discipline, practice and conscious effort. Coming out of mindfulness, entering into unmindfulness and being able to decipher between the two states requires a watchful mind.
On the other hand, had we practiced mindfulness, then perhaps we would notice shoes placed in their designated area.
Perhaps, upon awakening we would make our beds first rather than rushing into the next, next and next.
Perhaps after brushing, our kids would place the toothpaste lid back on the tube rather than zoning out taking imaginary selfies in the mirror with the tap running 50 miles an hour.
Perhaps we would eat together as a family instead of cubicle eating where every member is occupied in watching something in different rooms.
Perhaps we would eat together without the tv on and not silence ourselves like monks of a secret mystical order who utter not.
Perhaps we would offer to clear the table and put our dishes away instead of conveniently leaving it for Molly Maid or Mommy Maid.
Perhaps we would focus more on aesthetics, physical, emotional and spiritual well being and not lose ourselves to a point where we now seek help for a quick fix, a quack, or 911 tummy tuck.
Perhaps our desks would represent mental order instead of paper clutter which hinders our productivity.
Perhaps if weren’t busy on social media , our burnt dinner would of been saved.
Perhaps if the car lights or AC were shut, the car battery would not magically run down.
And perhaps life would be kinder if mom cooled off on her social networks, and actually paid attention to her child who says, ‘mom I just failed math’, or ‘mom I need help understanding past or future tense in English’ or ‘mom a boy in school is bullying me’, yet her thoughts preoccupied her mind to a point where she responds with the classical hmm, that’s great, yeah, nice.’ ‘See mommy, you never heard a word I said did you?’ Mom is clueless, speechless and somewhat embarrassed as all she can think about is inability to recall what her child expressed only a few moments ago.
The Technology Agenda
Technology and busy life styles, rat race syndrome, societal expectations of how we are expected to live, behave, dress, act, think has robbed our inherent right to being in the now. Constant stimulation and ADD, ADHD in adults is on the rise as much as it is in children.
Everyday technology toxins such as, gadgets, TV/Net, noise stimulation, noise pollution, information overload, video games and social media have divorced us from the ancient art of silence, an innate love for nature, meditation, focused thinking, thinking, visualization, human company, reading books and the simple pleasures of life like enjoying the scenic view on a road trip.
Conspiracy or Lunacy- You Choose
When masses are kept busy in everything but the act of conscious thinking, then injecting information to minds which have been conditioned to remain off guard, becomes an easy task. Mind control, subliminal programming, subjugation, suggestive ideas, imparting ideologies, influencing lifestyle choices, consumerism, infusing propaganda are media tools utilized through intelligence agencies whose agenda is more than we could possibly grasp. Let us simply ask ourselves, are we mind control candidates?
Who is Easier to Control?
When man is conditioned to be dumbed down, he lacks the ability to tap into his creative intelligence. Creative intelligence connects us through the means of our subconscious mind to infinite intelligence or Universal Mind. The exact opposite; synthetic intelligence, is what most of us use in our day to day life as it requires the use of the conscious mind which collects data from our five senses. Is it an irony that enlightened masters, artists, poets, thinkers, philosophers, geniuses, prodigies, operate from creative intelligence? Worth mentioning, creative individuals are harder to exercise control over in comparison to individuals who solely rely on synthetic intelligence.
Practical Mindfulness Pointers
- Seek out individuals who are trained, authorized or who embody mindfulness
- These are usually Meditation practitioners, coaches or spiritual mentors
- Establish a morning meditation routine
- Practice stillness and observe your thoughts as they arise
- Practice Yoga-join a class, find a teacher or establish a home based Yoga routine through virtual means
- Eat slowly, savour the flavours and pay attention to taste, texture, aroma
- Observe nature
- Spend time in nature
- Observe details in your environment
- Give your undivided attention to others
- Find like minded folks who practice mindfulness
- Eat clean
- Eat together
- Practice empathic listening
- Establish a calming routine prior to bedtime
- Find a creative outlet to express yourself
- Take pictures, avoid in excess
- Practice making eye contact while communicating
- Speak clearly, un-rushed
- Slow down and know that you are perfectly fine where you are now in this moment
Research on Mindfulness
- 72% of GPs think it would be helpful for their patients with mental health problems to learn Mindfulness meditation skills (21% don’t know if it would be helpful; 7% say it would not be helpful);
- 66% of GPs say they would support a public information campaign to promote the potential health benefits of Mindfulness meditation; and
- 64% of GPs think it would be helpful for them to receive training in Mindfulness skills themselves.
Life is a blessing and to live in the now is to live today as if it was our last day. Express love to those you appreciate in your life, pay attention, say sorry, take up a sport, play with your kids, spend quality time with parents and loved ones, take photos, cherish moments, practice gratitude with what life brings us. Mothers and caregivers of special needs children, know that in your home lives an angel, a spiritual guide, a lantern, a beacon who was sent from above to help you become an evolved human being who transcends the barriers of conditional love. And finally to close off with, let us keep in mind the next time we are out on a dinner with a loved one or loved ones, to shutdown all devices and give undivided attention a priority.
Mindfulness a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman