Choosing your reactions just takes a little mindfulness.
Before I moved from London to LA, I used to work in a clinic, where I taught meditation and mindfulness. Sometimes people came because they wanted to learn the basics of meditation and, at other times, they came because their doctor told them they needed additional or alternative help, with anything from insomnia to high blood pressure. Although each and every person was different, the human condition ensured there were just as many similarities. The most common theme was feeling stressed and distracted.
I remember one man coming to the clinic…let’s call him Bob. He came for a number of different reasons, all of which were stress related. Bob was middle aged, working and married with a family. He was busy, with very little time to spare and found it difficult to imagine finding an extra 10 minutes in the day to do something called meditation. But sometimes things get to a certain point in life when we’re willing to try anything. Bob was very much at this stage.
Although a little skeptical at first, he was surprisingly committed and rarely missed a day. Because of this he started to experience some of the benefits. The first thing he noticed was his blood pressure had fallen. Next it was that he was sleeping a little better. In time, he even started to experience a little less anxiety. All of this happened within the first two months. No magic cure, just gentle, persistent practice each day.
But the real breakthrough came after another month or so had passed. Before he had learnt how to meditate, Bob had spent very little time with his children. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he felt he didn’t have the mental space. And even when he was with them, he felt as though he was always distracted by thoughts about work or busy checking his phone. Just to be clear, Bob was self aware. He knew he was doing it, knew it was affecting his relationship with his children and knew he didn’t like the feeling.
In many ways this was doubly frustrating for Bob. Because when he sat to meditate the mind would be quite calm, quite focused, and afterwards he felt really good. But then the events of the day would just pile up and before he knew it he was right back in that restless spot again, where the mind was busy, the body was tense and he was easily distracted by even the smallest of things.
But then something happened. One day, for no apparent reason, he found himself playing with his children, with no thought for himself, for his work, for his phone or anything else. He was just present with the children. It wasn’t until afterwards that he even realized that this had happened. It sounds very ordinary, but for Bob this was extraordinary. It was such a simple thing and yet, a thing of genuine beauty, which moved him deeply.
We never truly know when a moment of mindfulness will illuminate our day; we never truly know how it will impact our own experience of life and the experience of those around us. But if we care, if we are motivated to create these moments, then they will happen.
Simply by taking some time out each day to rest the mind and focus our attention, we become increasingly present in everyday life, creating the opportunity for these moments of magic.