You may have thought that the point of being mindful was to be mindful at all times, and although that is a noble aim, sometimes mindfulness can not only turn the spotlight on the present moment, but it can shine on ourselves. This can lead to feeling a lot more aware of goings on inside our heads (good) but also feeling self-conscious (not so good). Mindfulness is a great way to bring ourselves back to the present moment and engaging with what we’re doing and, you know, live our lives. But sometimes we actually want our minds to wander!
Here I’ll outline a few places and times which I find are not great times to be mindful, and those that are perfect for some mindfulness.
The Worst Times For Mindfulness.
1. BE MINDLESS WHEN YOU NEED TO BE CREATIVE.
I find that if you want to be in flow, whether you are drawing, writing, painting, dancing or any other creative outlet, then to be mindful at that time can tip you into self-consciousness, and as soon as that happens, that day-dream state, which is so conducive to creative expression and free flow, can POP! And we can become judgmental or critical, stopping all creative out-pouring.
2. STOP THE MINDFULNESS WHEN YOU ARE WITH PEOPLE.
More specifically, when you are having a good time; be that laughing at jokes in a big group, or being with someone in a more intimate way. I’m sure supreme meditators can feel mindful and free at the same time, but for me, that doesn’t happen. When we are with people in these ways, you want to let yourself go! Don’t hold yourself under the mindful gaze because that can limit freedom to laugh and to let loose. Time seems to ebb and flow in situations when we are laughing or enjoying another person’s company, so there is almost no present to bring ourselves to anyways. Let your imagination and creativity be free, so we can enjoy the highs of company.
3. ZONE OUT WHEN TRYING TO SLEEP.
Again, we want to let our minds be in their dream like state for this time of the day! When we meditate we hear all the babble that goes on in our minds. In fact, it’s like we are dreaming all day long. During meditation practice we learn that we can’t turn off these voices and thoughts, but we use our concentration muscle to pull our awareness into our point of focus (breath, candle light, or mantra for example). But when it’s time to sleep, we need to do the opposite. We need to turn around and jump head first into the babble and let it take it wherever it takes us. When I’m in a new place (a hotel or camping) and have difficulty sleeping then I use a crazy little technique of mine. I say, in my mind, whatever is traveling through it at that minute. My conveyor belt mind might pass by with bananas, castles, seaside, butterflies or crayons and so I say those things to myself. It’s like I’m turning the focus away from the thought “Can’t sleep” and into this rambling and constant dream that’s going on subconsciously. Sometimes a thing I say might catch and I’ll wonder about it in that unmindful way that is exactly the right thing for drifting off to sleep!
The Best Times For Mindfulness.
1. BRING MINDFULNESS TO ROUTINE ACTIVITIES.
Brushing teeth, sweeping or vacuuming, washing dishes and other routine chores are some of the best places to be mindful. And you don’t have to be mindfully engaged with the whole process and every minute detail. But for remembering to be mindful, to feel that pulling back from thought and into the present and to engage with something in the now, then chores and routines like this are the perfect place to practice. And it doesn’t matter if the mindful awareness you’ve cultivated drifts from the chore and into your mind, it’s all part of the same process, and can be embraced fully.
2. BE MINDFUL WHEN MOVING.
Another wonderful time to be mindful is when we are moving our bodies, or moving ourselves to a different place by walking, driving or using public transport.
Exercise such as running and, of course – yoga, are places when mindfulness is not only a good practice for the mind to learn to check in with the here and now, but mindfulness here is actually helpful. When running, being mindful of our steps can save our knees, as well as helping the process along. We can use mindfulness to let ourselves relax in the repetitive footfall of a jog, or truly to experience the stretch in a yoga pose. This type of connection with our bodies makes us feel that we are truly living our lives, engaged with ourselves and slowing down the speed of the day.
When moving from A to B we can engage with the journey by checking into the present through mindfulness. Journeying is a great place to remember to check in with the traveling and away from unhelpful thoughts and mind-stories.
3. WAIT A WHILE, AND BE PRESENT.
Waiting and mindfulness go hand in hand! What else are you going to do – wish yourself into the future and out of the tedious moment?
Waiting for buses, waiting for children to put on their coats, waiting for someone at a bar, waiting for a film to start, waiting before having to eat. There are plenty of times when we have to wait, and they are great moments to come right into the present. You may feel tension, you may feel irritated – but you may also notice lots of other things, things you hadn’t ever noticed before; a new view, what tiny thing your child has spotted, a new sensation beneath the hunger that you hadn’t truly felt before. When waiting and wishing ourselves to be somewhere different, we can miss a whole host of treasures laying all around us, right here and right now. Missing the small stuff can lead to missing big chunks of our lives. Our lives are made up of the small stuff, so have a look at them the next time you’re toe tapping in a queue.
Remembering to be mindful in the first place is a big challenge, and a wonderful achievement if you’re doing it at all. A few moment of mindfulness here and now, just feeling and checking in with yourself here in the present is all you need to change the whole tone of your day. And if you aren’t mindful, then maybe that’s perfect too! Perhaps you have daydreamed up a whole host of wonderful imaginative delights and let your creativity flow.