Being mindful all the time is among the toughest things we can do. Our minds may not always be calm and quiet enough to remain in the present moment. Often, we find ourselves carried away by countless thoughts of the past or the future that take our attention far away from the here and now.
This chatty nature of the mind may result in us not being fully immersed in what is happening in the present moment and attending to the experiences therein entirely. We may find that, if we are in a group set up with our friends having fun and making merry together, we are not as cheerful as the rest of the people.
Also, if we are in a meeting or a situation that demands us to be focused, serious and attentive, we are constantly drifting off to other things and not fully attending and our emotions are not in line with the happenings of the present moment.
Here, we are going to see why it’s okay to not always be mindful and the different useful and effective ways we can use to catch up with the present moment and be grounded in it.
Our Expectations From Life
If we were to be asked what we would like from mindfulness as human beings, we would easily say that we would love to be always mindful throughout our lifetimes from birth.
We would really appreciate being rooted in the present moment without the constant worries of the future, or regrets of the past that come to us in form of stressful thoughts that keep us from enjoying what is in front of us at any given time.
We would be grateful if we can have scenarios where we no longer question if we locked the house or the car a few minutes after we are out of them because we weren’t paying attention during that moment. We would all love to be fully present in the moment in a way that we fully experience what is happening in the now and get to soak in all the experiences as best as we possibly can.
However, this is often not possible and there are many reasons why.
First, we may be practicing mindfulness only when we are stressed out. Now, this doesn’t mean it is wrong to practice mindfulness when we are under immense stress. It is a good thing as it can help us relax and calm down. However, mindfulness is more rewarding when we practice it in both good and bad times. We should seek to make it part of our lives by practicing it as regularly as possible without minding if we are in good moods or not.
Second, we may have the wrong perception of mindfulness. Many people think mindfulness is all about getting grounded in the present moment once and for all and remaining there until the last day of our lives on planet Earth. They think that we have to get it right the first time and make it permanent from there. The truth is actually quite the contrary. Mindfulness is about being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment, and redirecting our attention back to the here and now when our minds wander.
Third, we may be exaggerating our mindfulness practice. Some people feel like, to be mindful, they shouldn’t have their minds wander or forget or get carried away. And that makes it hard for them to comprehend how to go about the practice after they have let their emotions loose and have reacted in a negative way towards someone. They feel that they have done wrong and can never be mindful again. In truth, mindfulness is all about taking any moment we can to enjoy the beauty of the present moment. We won’t always have the privilege and we have to cultivate slowly by slowly to eventually have more moments. Otherwise, we will be losing attention to other things quite frequently as this is how our minds work.
Fourth, we lose the aspect of curiosity that comes with mindfulness. Our lives are not always roses and chocolates, there are times we can go through a series of uninteresting experiences. When we have duties to attend to, at work or home, which we have always been attending to for months, or maybe years, doing them may not be that fun. And in such cases being present may be hard because there seems to be nothing fascinating about it.
However, if we can still maintain the curiosity we need to have about the present moment, we can realize that there are lots of interesting things we can pick up from it. We can become aware of different feelings we have which are not always there when we are doing the duties. We can also pick up new things from our senses that might be quite fascinating to pay attention to.
How to Catch Up With The Present Moment
Now that we have seen the various reasons we are not mindful most of the time, let’s have a closer look at how we can increase our moments of mindfulness throughout the day and increase the duration of our mindfulness too.
1. Be Flexible At Times
Since, with mindfulness, we often take the approach that we have to be mindful no matter what and have to get ourselves back to the present moment whenever we wander, we make it even harder for us to be mindful.
Think about it, when you lock your child in for a long time and refuse to give them permission to go out and have fun with their friends and explore life, the more eager they become to go out, and once they get a chance you might not ever get them back in.
The same case applies to mindfulness. If we keep forcing ourselves to be mindful all the time, the harder it becomes to actually be and remain mindful. For that reason, we should go easy on ourselves and learn to be okay with mind wandering for a while.
Even as we gently redirect our attention to the present moment, we should learn to be more curious about why we are having a hard time being mindful and instead follow where minds go when they wander and be aware and curious about that place. After doing that consistently, we may notice that after some time, we naturally become mindful without putting in much effort.
2. Run Wild With Being Curious About Yourself And The Present Moment
To build upon the previous point, it also helps to encourage a sense of curiosity in our lives in terms of our thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the present moment together with its experiences. Most often, those are the hindrances to us being mindful.
And if we can take our time to be curious about why we feel or think or sense in ways other than what mindfulness recommends, we can learn a lot about ourselves, become more self-aware, and even come closer to having numerous moments of mindfulness.
Moreover, if we always approach the present moment as this moment of mystery in which we don’t know what will happen but are eager to know, we may find that our levels of mindfulness improve over time. This means being curious about what we will observe, hear, taste, smell, and even touch and letting the present moment unfold in front of our very eyes.
3. Accept That Life Won’t Always Be What You Want it to Be
Funny as it may sound, while our goal is to be present-minded, it helps to acknowledge that this won’t always be the case and be fine with that. Letting go of the expectations and the desire to be mindful may make us mindful.
It may sound counterproductive, but it works quite often. The expectations and desires are often what holds us back from enjoying something, in this case, the present moment. We always want to feel or think in a certain way to be classified as mindful, and that may mean ignoring our current feelings and thoughts.
Giving ourselves that allowance to be human and let our human nature take its course, and doing away with the expectations and desires, may open the path for us to be more mindful. And if doing that doesn’t work, well, we are okay with that too.
In summary, mindfulness is a practice that requires calibration and responding accordingly in order to make it work.
In the grand scheme of things, we should understand and accept that we may be mindful, but not all the time. And while our goal is to be more mindful, we should allow for the possibility of not being able to do that, and we should sit well with those moments when they come.
During those times when we feel redirecting our attention to the present moment is easy, we should do it and remain mindful. We can get into a quick session of mindfulness meditation to gain ground on that. Also, when we try to redirect our attention constantly but we keep drifting off, we should be easy on ourselves and give ourselves time while we become curious about those happenings.