Mindfulness is about now
Sometimes I just sit in amazement. What do Buddhist philosophy, a Jewish psychiatrist, modern neuroscience and your grandmother have in common? Do they have something in common? It turns out that they most certainly do! And that is the importance of being present, the importance of now, this moment, the only moment. Mindfulness.
Why can’t we be present?
Stop for a second and try to remember when you were last experiencing a moment where you weren’t wondering about leaving the lights on or regretting eating that last cookie. Or perhaps, fretting about a job interview or figuring out how you will get everything on your To Do list done. Life is busy. Too busy for being in the moment. Here’s an “earlier in my life story”; my To Do list got too long, so I began to write out a “Who will I disappoint today” list. Not good. Lol.
Depression and Anxiety
Fixating on the past is depression and worry about the future is anxiety. It is a fact that people that work on staying in the present are happier and healthier. Please don’t think that they avoid the day to day issues. Over time, they develop a resiliency, an ability to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.
So how does Buddhist philosophy, the Jewish psychologist, modern neuroscience and your grandmother have something in common?
There are plenty of definitions for mindfulness, but they all have components of experiencing the present moment, without the judgement of the past or the “what if” of the future. And this “now” concept is what links the Buddhist to the psychologist to neuroscience to your grandmother.
History…and now you know!
Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddhists came up with the five Skanda’s. More on these in an upcoming blog. The key point of the Skanda’s is that they describe the brain’s processing of some external input and how past experiences and our beliefs impact our reaction to that input.
And then, 2400 years later, along comes Viktor Frankl, an Austrian Neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. He survived the Holocaust partly due to his ability to remain in the present. I love this quote of his; “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Growth and freedom, beautiful goals. Once again, he is describing how our brain and past experience impacts our reaction and decision ability.
Neuroscience provides the measurement of how long we have between an input and our reaction. And it is only one-twentieth of a second! Interestingly, the steps described in the measurement are the same as those described 2500 years ago in the Skanda’s. And those steps are a bit unsettling. Say a saber tooth tiger is approaching. One of three feelings will arise; fear, love or neutral. At some point in time, your ancestors correctly chose fear and they ran away. Your judgement is that feeling of fear should lead to running so that you stay alive. It also could lead to freezing or fighting, but every time past occurrences will dictate how you react to that feeling of fear.
You chose, albeit unconsciously, to live in the past and react in the present. Now unconsciously running from a tiger or jumping out of the way of a speeding bus is a really good idea. But what about when you get that feeling when a boss or partner bring rise to that same feeling? Is it wise to flee, fight or freeze or to make a conscious decision on what is happening now?
And lastly, your grandmother. Without knowing it our grandmother’s invented Mindfulness, they just forgot to call it anything but common sense. “Count to 10” and “Take a deep breath” are bits of advice we have heard our whole life. They are both designed to bring us to “now”.
Getting to “Now” are skills. It is an essential component of joy, gratitude, making good relationship and business decisions and breaking the circular path of relapse in recovery.
If you would like more information on the process of living a present life, please write to Kerry@reclaimyourjoy.gure or Jeff@reclaimyourjoy.guru. You can also check out our upcoming classes and video chats.