Despite the frantic pace of life, we can feel fulfilled and even rejuvenated by consciously choosing to do small and simple mindful practices.
It's easy to utter two words, but how do we practice it in the midst of car-pooling and commuting, homework and housework, executive decisions and kindergarten worries? It helps to remember that the present is truly the only reality we have.
Author C.S. Lewis shares in "The Screwtape Letters" the perspective of Screwtape, who is training his nephew Wormwood as a tempter. Screwtape teaches, “Our business is to get them away from the Present. … It is far better to make them live in the Future. … It is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. … We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end … nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the present.”
We can try a “Daily Pause,” a moment we consciously take to see, feel or experience what is happening around us. Our family recently returned from a trip to Hawaii (thank you, sky miles). As we shared the benefits of being still, the children began to notice the holes in the sand. Then, movement in the holes. And finally, the emerging of skittering crabs.
During the entire vacation, whether it was the multiple subtle colors in a sunrise or the tangy salty taste of the ocean air, soaking in those moments made the trip more enjoyable at the time, and more memorable afterward.
Let go of the negative past
Technically, we can only remember or learn from the past. Choose to keep what helps you move forward, change patterns and behaviors and, feeling motivated and joyful, then let go of the negative clutter. When we allow ourselves to do this, we grow in ways unattainable without the hard experiences.
In the article “Healing = Courage + Action + Grace” by Jonathan G. Sandberg, he shares something powerful in the life of Nelson Mandela. He relates that Mandela entered prison relatively young and was described as too emotional, with a temper, and easily offended. However, 27 years later Mandela would describe himself as “balanced, measured, and controlled.” When he was asked how prison life had affected him, he said, “I came out mature.”
Be patient with yourself, with others and with the process of life. It’s an unfolding of who we and others are. The gift we give is to allow that development, especially when it’s not on our preferred timeline.
Find a coping skill for patience that works for you. Perhaps it’s self-discipline. I’ve tried a little of that and found one helpful thing is to practice "One More Minute." Before having children, I think my patience ran about one minute total. But after having seven children, I’m now up to a mind-blowing two, occasionally three minutes. I have found that in a difficult moment, silently reciting “One More Minute” helps me hang on longer than I would have previously. And that practice stretches me to be more patient for the next time.
Another skill could be humor. A friend of mine has a “NO” button that repeats various ways of saying the word “No” — indispensable in parenting, I say. Rather than become frustrated, simply press this little mom’s helper. Children see only your smiling face while hearing, “No-no-no … No-PE … Not a chance.”
Whichever way we practice mindful living, we can choose something. Two of my favorite poets bookend this for me: at the day’s start, Henry David Thoreau has said, “Determine to make a day of it”; at the day’s close, Ralph Waldo Emerson shares, “Finish each day and be done with it.”
To me that says start with gusto, experience the middle, then climb into bed in fresh pajamas and the feeling of being happily wrung out.
You’ve lived the day.
Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com