Picture this scenario: Mom is in the kitchen washing dishes as she simultaneously keeps an eye on her kids as they play on the porch. Her five-year-old runs in and excitedly asks his mom to come outside. She tells him that she needs to finish the dishes. He calls her again, this time with an urgency in his voice, and again she answers, “Let me just finish sweetie. I’ll be out in a jiffy.” When she finally walks out onto the porch, her son has a disappointed look plastered all over his face. “Too bad,” he says. “You missed it Mom. The rainbow’s gone.”
Of course the dishes could have waited, giving mom a special moment with her kids, but the moment vanished.
Too often, the momentum of our daily lives makes it hard to stop and “catch the rainbow” and appreciate those fleeting moments.
Hi Tech Disconnect
Living through the COVID pandemic, many of us find it hard to remain anchored when a new mutation emerges on the scene, which here in Israel means yet another lockdown of the country. Bereavement, crippling fear and anxiety that accompany loss of income, isolation and a constant flow of breaking news leave us with feelings of uncertainty and angst. Many of us are wrapped up in whatever is going on around us as it pulls our attention away from the present moment. Ironically, technology has made it increasingly difficult to stay truly connected with ourselves, with others, and with our surroundings.
We’re slowly losing touch with reality in a techno-touch world, overstimulated by the present. While our phones connect us to one another in one way, they have made us more detached and isolated than ever. Despite an endless number of contacts and friends lists, we’ve been left without many real friends. As we get caught in the whirlwind of measuring our worth by numbers of followers and likes, we inadvertently lose touch with those who truly appreciate us.
We have come to believe that we can control what’s bothering us by disposing of things we cannot fix. Unhappy in a relationship? End it and find another one. No energy to complete a task? There’s an app for that.
This mindset is mirrored when we are not in tune with what is happening to us internally. We relieve our discontent – sadness – by simply ignoring it, blame our boss, landlord, or coworker for their incompetence, and surf the web, binge-watching whatever’s on to kill time. We have completely lost our tolerance for others, as well as patience for courteous conversation. We would rather type an irate message than verbalize it effectively; avoid eye contact with the person right beside us on the bus; and ignore a gesture of kindness – all to opt out of “showing up” and being seen in the moment.
The Keys to Mindfulness
Given all of this, how can we develop a nuanced awareness of times when we are mindless, and learn how to control and gently guide our attention so that we are intentionally focused on the moments where life itself is happening?
Here are key points to know about mindfulness that we teach and practice as part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
- Is the act of consciously focusing the mind on the present moment without judgment and without attachment to the moment.
- Encourages us to intentionally stop and redirect our awareness.
- Helps us observe, describe, or participate, and openly take in the goodness life has to offer with gentle acceptance.
- Anchors us to a place where we can notice what is going on around us, effectively and non judgmentally, without getting caught up in it.
- Is a way of living with our eyes open and becoming one with the moment.
- Grants us a freedom to enjoy and focus on moment-to-moment events without letting time slip out of our reach.
Paradigm Shift: Taking Control
It is through this small yet monumental paradigm shift that a transformation will begin to take place. Rather than succumbing to “auto correct” whenever things don’t seem right, we can intentionally take control of our minds and attention processes. Instead of recording a precious milestone on our phones, we can learn to relish it. The taste of our ordinary cup of coffee can be enhanced. Experiencing the moment to its fullest and savoring every bite, can replace wasted time spent taking filtered selfies and pictures of our meals. In doing so, we can take effective steps towards creating a life that is rich, multifaceted, and meaningful.
It is the very awareness itself, the experiential co-creation of presence and openness, that frame and comprise the specific, detailed, moment-to-moment dance we call life.
I invite you to join me in venturing into the present moment.