Over the last hour, where has your mind been?
Have you been intently focused on something, or has your mind been bouncing around from your to-do list, to the phone ringing, to your worries, and then on to any number of unrelated thoughts and distractions?
All of that mental chatter is exhausting, especially since most of our thoughts are negative. Some estimates suggest we have about 45,000 negative thoughts a day, which is 80% of all of our thoughts. Imagine how that impacts your emotions — and even your physical health.
Our thoughts have an uncanny way of making us feel controlled by them. When we identify with our thoughts and view them as reflections of our essential selves, we can never be truly content. In our struggle to find peace and happiness, we attempt to think our way out of our thoughts and the emotions produced by thought. That’s when we get stuck in overthinking, worry, and mental looping.
What if you could make a profound mental shift and detach from your thoughts and the pain and anxiety they produce? What if you begin to view your thoughts as mental “clouds” that have nothing to do with you — they just float by at random. And when they float by, rather than jumping in and wrestling with them, you simply observe them and let them float away.
This shift is the beginning of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be present with right now. You are not only present, but you are aware in a non-reactive way. You don’t label your experience as good or bad, right or wrong. You simply observe and experience it. Why would you want to do this? Because mindfulness creates a state of equanimity and joy not possible when you identify with thought. It also produces an array of mental and physical health benefits that are life-changing.
Every time you try to bring your attention to the present moment, you are experiencing reality. But when you first attempt presence, your mind careens off in a multitude of directions before you’re even aware of it. However, you can tame and train your mind so that it no longer controls you. With mindfulness practices, you can learn to return to the present moment whenever you wish, for increasingly longer periods of time.