I was driving along the other day-in a rush no less, and heard an old Alabama song on the radio that made me stop and think. In fact, I stopped so long that I sat through the start of a green light and was honked at by the driver behind me, who apparently was also in a hurry. The song was titled “I’m In a Hurry.” How appropriate is that?
I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why
What started out as just a catchy tune ended up bringing me deep in thought about all of the things I have been in a rush to do lately. I’m constantly waiting until the last minute to leave the house, which makes me hurry to get where I am going since I don’t like to be late for things. I want the movie to end quicker so that I can beat traffic home. I’m in a rush to finish each semester of school so that I can just graduate already. The list goes on and on. When did I begin to think that quicker is better? Why can’t I just sit back and enjoy the current moment before rushing off to begin the next one?
In my most recent therapy session, (Yes, I am in therapy. If you didn’t know that already, go back and read a few of my blogs and you’ll see the progression) we started to talk a bit about mindfulness. I suppose it is only fitting that this song should present itself right after talking about being in the moment. But, I digress.
Psychology Today explains it well in language I can easily understand: “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Can I ever learn to focus my attention on the present; to observe my thoughts and feelings from a distance; to – gasp- not judge them? The closest I ever get to discerning my life from a distance is perhaps journaling. I have a healthy journaling habit in which I sit down nearly every day and write out what has happened to me that day or what I might have on my mind at the moment. It allows me to step back and empty my mind without judgment. I suppose I do that in therapy as well, but we are limited to an hour, so I don’t have time to get it all out. What can I say? I’m a bit on the wordy side.
So how else can I make a habit of being more mindful? In my searching around I found a way to combine my love and attachment to technology- namely my cell phone- and my yearning for a more present attitude. I found it in a program in the Android app market called Mindfulness Bell. The basic concept is that you pick the hours between which the bell may ring on your phone (for example, mine is set between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.) and the app will randomly sound the bell a few times throughout the day. It is the most soothing, calming, quiet, pleasant sound and is meant to bring your attention to the present moment. When mine rings I do two things. First, I notice my surroundings and my feelings. Second, I take that moment to say a brief prayer. Now, I’m not overtly religious, but I do believe in the power of a good prayer, and what better time to fit a fee in than when my mindfulness bell comes ringing?
I’m about a week into using the mindfulness bell, and I’m surprised at how well it brings me to present and makes me slow down a little. My hope is to someday be able to do this on my own without the aid of my wonderful bell, but until I have mastered the art, it is a nice crutch.
Do you ever struggle with being in the present moment? Do you constantly rush ahead, making schedules and following plans? How do you remember to stay mindful and in the present?