Lately I’ve been trying to be more mindful and live “in the moment”, that’s why when I discovered Jennifer Wells’ new blog, I asked her right away if she would like to be a guest blogger for Re-Discover Washington. What does it mean to be mindful? The way I interpret it is to be fully present in every moment in your life, go with the flow, and make the best of it. We notice so many things, but we rarely see them and perceive them for what they are.
“Do all that you can, with all that you have, in the time that you have, in the place where you are.” …Nkosi Johnson
There is a lot of talk about living in the moment these days. The word “mindfulness” has almost become the new buzzword. But what does it actually mean to be mindful and live in the moment? Why are we being told by spiritual leaders, psychotherapists, and bestselling authors that learning this life skill will bring us great peace and joy in our lives?
Living in the moment means exactly what it says. Paying attention to what is happening now. This doesn’t mean blanking out your mind and focusing so hard on what you are doing that you are oblivious to everything else going on around you. It means paying attention to the entire moment. Being completely present, right here in reality as opposed to living in our mind’s fantasyland, composed of thoughts of the past and future, and whatever else our “monkey mind” wants to entertain.
Monkey mind is a term used by many Buddhist practitioners to describe how our mind is constantly jumping from one thought to the next, and sometimes holding on to thoughts so tightly we literally get lost in our own mental “movie” and forget what is going on in front of us. The consequences of this can range anywhere from causing frustration in others for not being a good listener, to causing ourselves and others harm. For example, have you ever almost chopped off your finger cutting vegetables or been at fault in a car accident? Some would say there are no true accidents or simple bad luck. There are only causes and conditions that create these events, and one condition may have been you simply not paying enough attention to what you were doing.
Of course, not living mindfully can have more subtle consequences. As a mother, I struggle at home to be completely present for my children. Kids are extremely perceptive little creatures, and they know when you are there in body, but not in mind. Depending on how often this happens in our homes, it can potentially be very emotionally damaging to them. Children, just like bigger people, need to feel seen, appreciated, and validated. If we are never actually seeing them, feeling their pain and confusion and struggles, their spirits and their hearts will suffer.
It can be difficult for us to admit that we may be at fault for our own misfortunes or the suffering of others, but it is truly freeing and empowering when we are able to recognize that we are in more control of what happens in our lives than we thought. We cultivate peace and joy by training our monkey mind to pay attention to right now, instead of stirring up old painful experiences or being fearful of the future. If we practice mindfulness consistently, with intention, we will not only change our own lives, but we can be of great benefit to others as well.
Text: Jennifer Wells
Photos and captions: Slava Bowman Photography
Jennifer Wells is a homeschooling mom of three, ages 7 and under. She loves to share with other parents her discoveries and challenges in cultivating mindfulness, compassion, equanimity, and authentic joy in our daily lives. She is passionate about living simply and in harmony with the natural world, and revitalizing the idea of strong community connections. Her other interests include learning about and practicing sustainable living, homesteading, nutrition, growing food, hiking, camping, amateur photography, reading, learning, and discovering the world with her children. You can follow Jennifer’s blog here.