How to Drop Resistance and Make Mindfulness Your Friend
You’ve no doubt heard that living in the moment, being mindfully aware of what is going on around you, has many benefits. Mindfulness can help relieve stress, increase joy, and improve your overall wellness. It costs nothing but your time and attention.
But how do you do it? The simple answer is, of course, practice. Through practice, you’ll learn to remember to return to present-moment awareness again and again, to focus on your breath as an anchor to the now. Yet over time, as you practice, you’ll become aware of ways that you resist living in the present. These stumbling blocks on the path aren’t failures on your part. Bringing your awareness to them can help you dispel them.
One of the most common challenges with living in the moment is the ongoing commentary in your head. The chatter of the monkey-mind is never-ending. It keeps you in a state of regret for things you did (or didn’t do) in the past and worry about things you should (or shouldn’t) do in the future. This is your ego talking.
Your ego mind is not a bad thing. It’s a type of consciousness that was developed for a particular purpose, namely survival in a dangerous physical environment. For most of us, our daily surroundings aren’t as perilous as our ancestors’ were – we don’t hunt in order to eat, and we aren’t being pursued by predators. If you do currently live this type of life, you’re most likely not taking the time to read a blog post about mindfulness.
Yet the ego often acts like our existence is being threatened. It is trained to look for problems and then motivate us to fix them. When you can realize that this emphasis on imminent peril is just a story, it’s much easier to relax into the moment and let it go. Don’t be attached to the story your mind is telling you.
Another common stumbling block is forgetting. Until you make it an ingrained habit, it’s easy to simply forget to bring your awareness to the moment. This is another aspect of believing the stories your mind is telling you. You get caught up in the flow of your day with your associated thoughts and feelings about it, which are often patterned upon reactions you had yesterday, the day before, and so on back into the past. You don’t even realize that you have another choice.
This is where deliberate reminders come in handy. When you’re in the mode of mindfulness (say, perhaps, a few minutes from now, after reading an article about it), create triggers that will give you a boost back into the moment.
Some ideas: Write affirmations on index cards in bright colors and post them around your home. Set random reminders in your phone like “time to breathe!” or “stop now and just be.” Sign up for joyful reminders that will pop into your email inbox with positive quotes. You can customize your reminders based on your daily routines. Have fun setting up your reminders, infusing them with your creativity and love.
Another big stumbling block to be aware of is our tendency to pass judgment. Rather than seeing life the way it is unfolding around us, we are often full of judgment about it, or about ourselves. It’s too cold or too hot, we don’t deserve such-and-such, this sucks or that would be better. Our entire society is set up around this premise of competition, of there always being the newer and better thing. There’s nothing wrong with desiring something more. Paradoxically, though, the best way to achieve your desires is to be grateful for what is already in front of you.
Training yourself to notice your automatic judgments is an important component of mindfulness practice, and will expand your ability to dwell in the moment more often. An effective way to do this is to notice how you speak and think about things that happen in your experience. How often do you complain? Challenge yourself to go 3 days complaint-free. It will probably be quite a feat, and you may not be able to do it – but it will certainly open your eyes to how you’re looking at daily life through a lens of judgment. Working toward releasing it, or at least acknowledging that it’s there, will deepen your awareness of the moment, of the purity of just being.
Persistence is the key to your mindfulness practice. Continue to return to the now. Don’t beat yourself up when you forget. Welcome yourself with open arms to the spacious joy of this very moment.