So many things to do… and even more things to think about – how do we keep up? Mindfulness suggests instead of constantly stepping forward we take time to step back.
I remember my ‘Computer Studies’ teacher, in the 1980’s, telling me, “You’ll only have to work a few days per week when you’re older… the computers and robots will do all the work and you’ll have buckets of leisure time!”
Well, 30 years later and his prophecy, unfortunately, has not materialised. In fact, the opposite seems to have occurred. We seem to work for longer hours, either in paid work, or unpaid work: perhaps caring for family members, young or old.
However, maybe we’re not working much harder than our predecessors, but we are ‘thinking’ about work and what we have to ‘do’ more than ever before. One of the issues with so much modern work being mental rather than physical is that we can be ‘switched on’ all the time. Either because we can be contacted 24/7 via our phones, or our massively complex minds have the ability to think about what ‘needs doing’ or what we ‘should be’ doing all the time…
So, how does mindfulness help? When we practise mindfulness meditation, sitting silently, following the breath – of course, the mind gets bored and tells us, “I haven’t got time for this. I could be putting on another wash load, hoovering, reading that email – or sending that email!” And… the more emails we send, the more come back!
When practising a mindfulness meditation, we notice this over-thinking - we step back - and return the mind to the breath. It doesn’t matter if it wanders off thirty times in an 8 minute practice; we let the thought go and return the mind to the breath: letting go of frustration, irritation or self-judgement, we simply keep bringing back the mind.
But how does that help? The washing and hoovering still need doing. The emails still need reading and sending. Well yes, but mindfulness ‘allows’ us to step back from overthinking so when we are hoovering, we can just hoover, without continuously ‘over-thinking’ all the other things we need to do.
And vitally, when we are not working, when we are spending time with family or friends or walking in the park, we can fully do these things and relax. Each time our mind wants to take us away from the lush, green park back to the ironing pile or the office emails, we notice this – we step back - and return the mind to the park. So, rather than being mentally at the office, we are mentally in the park – and physically there with all our senses: smelling, hearing, seeing – the grass, the birds and the open sky…