Today, I published a guest article by Barbara Bartlein. “Happiness-Maximize Each Day by Paying Attention.” She reminds us that there are many pleasant times and experiences to be found in everyday life if we simply pay attention to them. The article somewhat echos the current trend for psychologists (especially positive psychologists), life coaches, meditation teachers and other self-improvement proponents toward “mindfulness” training. Mindfulness practice, at its most basic, encourages you to be awake and aware in the present moment. That means, you consciously and intentionally attend to what is happening right now.
Of course, pure mindfulness is without judgment. If you learn to do mindfulness well, you accept the experience without pronouncing it good or bad; without assigning a meaning to it. This is just a blog post, not a thesis on all the values of being able to do that on a regular basis, so let me just point out that there is a quick, practical outcome to being able to be mindful and without judgment on a momentary basis. That outcome is this: if you can detach for just a moment, you break a cycle of knee-jerk responses to your daily experiences and can re-evaluate them to make them more useful or enjoyable. Yep, you figured it out; you have a chance to develop new insights. (This is not the long-term purpose of mindfulness training, just a kind of useful “side-effect.”)
You just have to pause for a moment and say, “what’s actually happening now?” Hear all the sounds around you, see all the people and what they’re doing, smell the odors, feel the heat or cold, etc. Now that you’ve experienced it without thinking about it or feeling emotions about it, turn your emotions on and decide if it’s bad, good or indifferent. When you find the good moments, grab them and savor them. Do it frequently and you’ll find yourself growing more content. Do it at work. Do it at home. Even do it during commute time. For example, do you listen to music on the radio or CD’s in your commute? Don’t you choose music to make you feel good in some way? Attend to the music, savor it instead of cursing the bogged down traffic in front of you. That’s a way of mindfulness.
Again, this post is not about the full value and training of “mindfulness.” If you want to learn more about it, you can find many websites and books that will get you started on that discipline.
Go find, explore, enjoy.