The first pillar that I teach in my practice is mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means actively paying attention to your thoughts, sensations, feelings and the environment around you, and doing your best to recognize these without judgment.
Mindfulness seems like a pretty simple thing to do when you’re doing something like a riding a roller coaster. From the moment you board the ride, you’re fully present. You notice the handle bar that comes down as you slide into the seat. You notice if the seat is sticky or hot from the sun. If the roller coaster goes through water, you might notice if your seat or the area for your feet is wet. You notice any music playing and the theming of the loading area.
As the roller coaster starts moving, you notice the noises, the jerking sensations as it starts to climb the upward track. As it reaches the top of the ascent, you notice how high up you are and might look around at the amusement park around you taking in the aerial view. Then you start moving faster and with each turn and flip, you actively experience the movement, possibly putting your arms up and screaming in excitement or peril. You’re likely not checking your phone, thinking about what you have to do tomorrow or reminiscing about your high school prom while you’re on the ride. In general, if you enjoy rollercoasters, you are likely actively present the entire time.
The tricky part of mindfulness comes into play during times when we don’t want to be where we are. These moments are prime time for checking out into either the future or the past. Unfortunately, when we do this too often, we end up losing out on the gifts of the present moment. We don’t thoroughly experience the thing we are doing and so likely don’t do it all that well. Our happiness and satisfaction levels go down, and another moment passes by in a blur.
Being Home is a Recipe for the Blur
As we all struggle to adapt to a life that takes more firmly within the household, we can admit that the days are starting to blend together. Our work time is no longer separate from family time, and we are juggling to get work projects done at the same time that we’re trying to maintain a household, connect with our families, and get some time to ourselves to recover. Every day passes by in a blur of chaos, and it can leave us not only wondering what we achieved, but it leaves us wondering if we achieved anything at all.
The lifestyle as I’ve laid it out is definitely not maintainable. Because there is nothing to distinguish one section of time from another, there is no sense of production. There is no satisfaction of the sort that we get when we finish a task and can check it off our list. There is just an endless list of needs in all realms of our life, and that list goes out into the future as far as we can see.
So What Can We Do
As with the Covid-19 situation, there is very little we can do to change what is happening in the outside world. If we are quarantined or working at home or having to home school our children, we can’t change those realities. But we can practice becoming more mindful so that when we are doing a particular task, we are all in.
This is obviously easier said than done, but it’s is possible with the right preparation. The first step is to block out your time. This may mean that if you have young children, blocking out their time as well. Setting up certain blocks of time during the day where you know you’ll be doing certain things allows your mind to stop wandering to the future and the future tasks. If you’ve scheduled everything out, you rest easy. Pay attention to the current thing you’re working on, whether that is sending an email, making homemade baby food or organizing your home office. Whatever you are doing, be fully right there.
Next set up some physical boundaries. Everyone’s house is different, but do your best to assign purposes for various rooms. Don’t work on the couch or teach your kids in the backyard by pool. That only adds to the blur factor. Are you having fun or are you getting work done? Make sure that it’s crystal clear. This will help you and your kids focus on the task at hand. It will also make the fun time more fun.
The third step is to be easy on yourself. This is a challenging and new time for everyone, and there will be plenty of trial and error. That is all okay. The goal of mindfulness is to be free of judgment no matter what happens. So in your attempts to be more mindful in your daily life, don’t start judging your efforts. Simply making the effort to begin with is what counts.
And if all else fails, step back and take a deep breath. A self-imposed pause may be all you need to get back on track.