To understand mindfulness, we need to start by first understanding the state in which most people function on a daily basis. In today's world, where life passes at warp speed, awareness seems to be a lost art. We multitask, doing much yet accomplishing little that's of any real value. As we pack our schedules with more and more activities, we begin moving through our days without any real engagement—with others, with our environment, and with ourselves. Basically, by staying perpetually busy, we live our lives simply going through the motions. This disconnect has us juggling virtually everything and focusing meaningfully on practically nothing. In essence, mindlessness rules our lives. We walk around in a continuously distracted state, with our actions, reactions, and pretty much our entire lives running on automatic pilot. In such an environment, it's all we can do to survive, much less thrive.
Purposefully paying attention to the world around us and the world within us are important factors in becoming more attuned to our everyday experiences. Our surroundings, as well as our own thoughts, feelings, and actions are all key candidates for this kind of focused awareness. As we increase our perception of what is going inside us and around us, we gain the ability to use the insights gleaned from these experiences to make meaningful changes in our lives.
Simply existing involves allowing yourself to just "be," without judgment or analysis. In this state, you actually become your own observer, watching things as they unfold—and, significantly—without trying to "fix" them. You simply allow yourself to be as you are. The benefits of simply existing are many. You become calmer and less stressed. You feel less pressure to perform. You focus on the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or regretting the past. Once you begin practicing this principle, you may be surprised how freeing it will feel.
The insights you gain by cultivating mindfulness can help you live more intentionally, making your life more meaningful. Living intentionally involves refusing to respond automatically to the things you experience. By placing emotional distance between the experience and your reaction to it, you allow yourself the freedom to choose your own response, to make intentional choices about the way you live. This can help free you from past destructive patterns of behavior that have been more harmful than helpful.
Moving from Mindless to Mindful Living
Our fast-paced modern world may present many challenges to those of us who desire to do more than move from task to task with minimal awareness of how the world is affecting us. But, when we understand the principle of mindfulness and apply this powerful model to our lives, much of the unease and unfulfillment that currently mark our days can be lifted and replaced with peace, joy, and inner calm. It may not happen overnight, but it is definitely a worthy goal to work toward as we seek to improve the quality of our lives.