Chasing Shiny Thoughts
Have you ever been driving, arrived at your destination, and realized that you can’t remember the commute? Have you read a page or two of a book and can’t remember a single word? Like a raccoon drawn to a shiny object, it’s oh-so-easy to chase after shiny thoughts and lose precious moments.
The Conveyor Belt of Thought
Our minds are like a conveyor belt that’s always running. Our thoughts flit enticingly before us on this conveyor belt and we get to choose which ones we pay attention to, and for how long. But a skill that most of us don’t realize that we have is the power to slow down the conveyor belt, or stop it altogether; the practice is called mindfulness, and it’s really good for you.
Your Power Is in the Present
Mindfulness is achieved by focusing on the present. Think about it. When was your life not happening right now? You can’t change the past, and your influence on the future is always determined by what you’re doing in the present. All of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations are entirely dependent on your ability to live powerfully in the present.
Children: The Masters of Mindfulness
When it comes to mindfulness and living in the present, we have a lot to learn from children. Generally speaking, children are oblivious to time and therefore can allow themselves to be fully present, with whatever they’re doing, at any given time. As a result, they’re trusting, happy, and worry free.
As we grow up, becoming distracted, worried, and overwhelmed is commonplace. It’s exciting news to discover that the power to reverse these unproductive behaviors and live joyfully in each moment has been with us all along.
How Do I Do It?
Mindfulness experts advise that beginners pull themselves into the present moment by focusing on the breath—because your breath is always with you in the present. Here are some steps to help you begin practicing mindfulness:
- Find a quiet place. If you can carve out a few minutes to sit alone and be mindful, excellent. If not, know that you can practice mindfulness anywhere, in everything you do, simply by being present and allowing yourself to thoughtfully, calmly, and nonjudgmentally, experience each moment with your five senses.
- Slow down the conveyor belt. Try to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Some find it helpful to say words like “Let” on the in-breath, and “Go” on the out-breath. You can close your eyes or focus on something in your surroundings. Use your five senses to observe and experience your surroundings without judgment. What is the temperature? Are there any smells? What can you hear? Notice any physical sensations internally or externally.
- Observe your thoughts. When thoughts do pass before your mind, allow yourself to watch them go by as an observer, without judgment. Let them simply be what they are without chasing them or getting emotionally involved. Remember, you are not your thoughts, and it’s healthy to periodically distance yourself from them. As an observer, you’ll be more open to truth and guiding inspiration.
- Set your intention. Setting an intention is a powerful way to put your faith into practice. Decide what you want to accomplish. Do you intend to stay positive throughout the day? Watch what you eat? Keep your temper? Finish your entire workout? It could be anything. Decide what you intend to do, say it to yourself, and simultaneously give it to God, or send it out into the universe. For example: I intend to finish the first item on my to-do list.
- Engage in the present. When setting your intention, trust that all you have to do is fully engage yourself in the present, and that God, or the universe, will provide everything you need to succeed.
Mindfulness Helps You Live Worry Free
A fascinating fact about worry is that it’s either past or future based—the two time components that are completely out of your control. When you set your positive intention, and exercise faith that God, or the universe has your back, all you have to do is your very best with the moment in front of you. This mindset is freeing and carries with it a whole host of benefits.
Linda Clyde is foremost a wife and a mother of three. You may contact her at email@example.com
Sometimes Gratitude Shows Up Late
Like anyone, I’ve had times in my life when it was hard to be grateful: like the eight or nine months as a poor newlywed living in an ancient camping trailer, in a blustery RV park, surrounded by sand—nearly every morning we woke up with sand in our teeth; or the time I sat helpless in the hospital next to my concussed 11-year-old after she suffered a terrible accident at recess; or when I went through a faith crisis and began to deeply question my religious beliefs. Gratitude doesn’t always come easy; in my case it has shown up months and even years later.
Gratitude Can Take You Places
Life has its lean times, physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. But by remembering that the lean times are opportunities for learning, growth, and development, it becomes easier to feel grateful.
Gratitude can also be an incredible tool for life, if you’re able to keep pride from getting in the way. Gratitude is a launching pad for future growth. For example, if you lost your job, would you spend time being angry at the company or person that let you go, or would you focus on being grateful for what you learned during your employment? The first approach is a solid dead end; but the second approach can really lead somewhere.
The Superpower of Gratitude
We’ve all been around thankless, pessimistic folks. It’s hard to walk away from an encounter with an ungrateful person without feeling a subtle emptiness, like they’ve taken something from you. But if ingratitude and thanklessness leaves us feeling empty and closed off, we can be sure that gratitude and a thankful heart are their shining, glorious opposites. Consider the following:
- Gratitude is attractive. People, who express gratitude for the simple things, like majestic sunsets or their love and appreciation for others are emotionally and spiritually attractive and they’re just plain nice to be around.
- Gratitude strengthens faith. Being grateful has a way of opening up your heart and mind to the goodness surrounding you. It’s a positive, optimistic force that helps you believe that things will always work out for the best. Trusting that there’s a higher power out there that wishes only to bless you and strengthen you, can go a long way in building faith that lasts.
- Gratitude is disarming. When someone is angry, expressing gratitude and appreciation for them can take the edge off of their anger, validate their feelings, and help them calm down.
- Gratitude can serve as a reset button. When you’re hung up on the challenges and injustices of life, gratitude can help you refocus on what’s really important.
- Gratitude gets easier. Like anything, finding things to be grateful for can become second nature when you practice.
- Gratitude makes you more receptive to goodness. A focus on gratitude can help you suddenly appreciate things you haven’t noticed before: your best friend’s contagious smile, the happy wag of your dog’s tail, a refreshing rainstorm—anything! Goodness is everywhere.
- Gratitude helps others see the bright side too. Your optimistic example of pointing out goodness can go a long way for everyone in your circles. Don’t hold back; talk about what makes you laugh, all the things you like, or just good things that happened to you throughout the day. You’re sure to lift someone and make them smile.
Better Late Than Never
I now look back with gratitude for the sand in my teeth because the love of my life was right there with me—and he had sand in his teeth too. I look at my happy, healthy daughter and my heart thrills that she’s still with me, and leading a normal life. Each week I attend my local congregation and I’m thankful for the wonderful gift of being able to choose what I believe. Over time I’ve learned that there’s something special to cherish in every moment and that learning to be grateful is a lot like having an emotional superpower.
Linda Clyde is passionate about faith and the power it has to brighten lives. She’s a wife, mother, writer, beautician, and above all, a believer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org