If you had to answer honestly, could you truly say that you are present in the moment most of the time? I think that most of us (I include myself, but I’m working on it!) are neither mindful nor fully present for the majority of our waking moments. Mindfulness is an important part of many spiritual practices, most notably Buddhism. And for good reason - mindfulness keeps us from worrying about the future or fretting about the past. By definition, the present moment is the point at which we live, so why not be fully aware and engaged in it! It is in the present moment that we are most alive and in connection with the Ground of our Being.
Being fully present in the moment is a decision that we can make any day. It is perhaps best to start being present during less stressful times, so we can develop our mindfulness muscle, so to speak. Then, that muscle will be strong enough to carry us through the rougher times. I suggest that you practice mindfulness at home and on the way to work to get used to being in the moment. Of course, you can and should practice mindfulness at any time - I’m just saying it’s easier to start when you are doing something with less emotional charge than a tense situation at work.
Being mindful is simple and yet difficult. It is focusing your mind on exactly what you are doing in that moment. The Buddhists say, "Chop wood, carry water." So when you chop wood (or brush your teeth, drive a car, load the dishwasher, etc.) you do only that - you don’t also mentally plan for tomorrow’s presentation at the board meeting. What we are trying to do is train our brain to focus and be aware of what you are doing in the moment, which increases your calmness, equanimity and focus.
Independence Day in the US was two days ago, and I prepared a rather large feast for my family and some friends who came to dinner for the holiday. I heartily enjoy entertaining but have less fondness for cooking, so I confine my culinary endeavors to major holidays and parties that we throw. This time, I made the decision early in the morning that July 4th would be a mindfulness day for me. As I chopped vegetables, I was fully present to the rhythmic sound of my knife cutting the carrots, to the sight of the onion slices lined up like soldiers on my cutting board, to the smell of the vegetables releasing their aroma as I cut them. And then, I noticed my hands, scooping up the sliced vegetables and putting them in the bowl. Suddenly fascinated with how hands work, I admired and appreciated them as they did their amazing job, prehensile thumb and all. My mind would wander to worrying about this or that, then I would notice and gently bring my awareness back to what I was doing. I found that by the end of the day, I was feeling happy and fulfilled, not tired and resentful as I usually feel after spending the day in the kitchen.
I think that you, too, will discover the benefits of mindfulness. You will be less tired, happier and more energetic for the next moment that comes. So, how can you build mindfulness moments into your day?