❝Meditation is nothing more or less than the art of choice. It's the art of paying attention to what really matters.❞ -Sam Harris
I'm in a pretty good mood as I'm making lunch on a nice summer day. There's a very comfortable breeze coming through the windows and door. Our dog, Bingo, is lying down nearby, hoping I “accidentally” drop some food. Today is a nice relaxing day. Then, out of nowhere, Bingo starts barking ferociously. This is the kind of bark that indicates somebody is at the front door, but there's nobody at the front door. I'm trying everything I can to get her to be quiet. She's not listening to any of it. I calmly try to get her to stop barking one last time, but instead of listening, she actually gets louder. I instinctively snap.
The way I yell at Bingo comes out of nowhere. It sounds like how I would yell at somebody breaking into my house. That's when I look up and see my 85-year-old neighbor at my side door with a look on his face that is equal parts surprise, fear, and judgment.
My inability to stay calm was quite embarrassing. Fortunately, there is something we can do to lessen the likelihood of these embarrassing situations.
WHAT MINDFULNESS IS
Mindfulness is effectively being aware of the present moment, no matter what you are doing. More specifically, it's about keeping your attention on your experience in the present moment without judging it and without wishing it was different.
What might be more important is what mindfulness isn't. It's not simply a stress ball that can be used to relax; it's not a way to change your thoughts; it's not something that prevents you from thinking about the future.
WHY MINDFULNESS IS HELPFUL
Mindfulness helps by increasing our awareness and sharpening our attention. You can think of awareness as everything you could notice, and attention is where you focus. It helps you be open to what is happening right now with acceptance rather than wishing it was different. Mindfulness also keeps you from identifying with thoughts, emotions, and moods. In other words, it helps you feel angry rather than be angry.
Finally, it helps you make a choice. Rather than reacting mindlessly to whatever is going on in the present moment, we get to choose the appropriate response.
WHERE MINDFULNESS HELPS
This shows up in many areas of our lives. If you are like most people, for example, you may have had the experience of losing your temper. Losing your temper is reacting to a situation with anger rather than choosing a more appropriate response. Thus, being more mindful helps us remain calm and have healthier, more productive conversations.
Mindfulness also helps with our spending. It's easier and easier to spend money without knowing we're spending money. If you use a shopping app or go online to shop, there's a good chance you linked your credit card or debit card a long time ago so that each time you make a purchase, you don't really have to get your wallet to pay. When we go into a shop for lunch, we no longer have to fork over or cash or write a check; instead, we tap a card to a reader and don't get a receipt. This is what I call mindless spending; spending that we are unaware of. By being mindful of our spending, we can use our money more intentionally.