It 's interesting to observe how things that once were exciting to me, turn into mundane and uninspiring. Let's take for instance driving a car. When I first learned to drive, it was exciting and I wanted to do everything right. I was very much into it. I enjoyed feeling my hands on the steering wheel, my foot on the gas. I took deliberate care to put on the turn signal, look over my shoulder and check the mirrors, before changing lanes. I was carefully watching the traffic and fully aware of the whole experience.
Now I often get into the car and drive somewhere without even noticing what I am doing. It's as though I get into a time-machine and I magically arrive at my destination. I do at times remember being stuck in traffic, or annoyed at other drivers.
Back when I first learned to drive, I loved driving the car, couldn't wait to get behind the wheel, and it did not matter where I was driving or for how long. I just enjoyed the experience. Now, if you ask me if I love to drive, I would have to think about it. Usually, it's just a means to get me from point A to point B, and most of the time I don't enjoy the experience. So what has changed?
I believe it's a matter of mindfulness vs. mindlessness, or absentmindedness. When I first learned to drive, I took in the experience with all my senses. I was completely in the moment, savoring every experience. Loving every minute. Now, when I drive, I do it without noticing. I usually use my time listening to music or thinking about what I need to accomplish next. My mind is not in the experience of driving, but elsewhere, I am absentminded.
So what if I get into my car now and decide to drive mindfully? Will it bring back the joy I first experienced years ago? Yes, it does. I get into the car and fully appreciate it. I feel my hands on the steering wheel, my body in the comfortable seat. I turn on the air-conditioning and enjoy the cool air around me. I take in the sights and discover new things about my way to the grocery store. I get excited to find a parking spot, just when I need it!
How about your day? Do you feel uninspired, bored, unfulfilled or dislike your life? I believe the mindfulness vs mindlessness formula can be applied to any activity in your life. And changing from doing something wholeheartedly with your mind fully in it, can change your feelings toward it. Things that you dislike, even hate, can become interesting and fulfilling. Life becomes exciting.
Try it with something you usually do habitually, automatic, absentminded, like brushing your teeth, or doing the dishes, or driving to work. Pick an activity that you do without much joy or excitement.
So how do you become mindful of this experience? Mindfulness can be defined as non-judgmental awareness of the present moment experience. To become mindful, it is best, at first, to do the activity more slowly then usual. Since our body is always in the present moment, bring your attention to your senses. What are you touching, what does it feel like? What are you seeing? Examine it closely. What are you smelling, tasting and hearing? Take it all in, as though it was for the very first time. Refrain from naming or labeling. That is the non-judgmental part. So for example, when you start smelling the gas fumes, try not to label them. Just notice the smell and simply allow it. Let your mind be fully in the present moment. When you thoughts wander off to other things, gently remind yourself to stay focused on the present experience. Don't get frustrated or give up because your mind wanders off. It happens to everyone. Being fully engage takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it will get. You can use your breath as an anchor. If you find yourself thinking of other things, bring your attention to the breath, notice how it feels to breathe in and out. Breathe slowly and deliberately and then return to your mindfulness activity. Pretend you are experiencing your activity for the very first time. Enjoy being an explorer, try to notice something about this activity you had not noticed before.
At first, this may seem silly to you, but after a while, being present will become a habit. And when you are more engaged in the present moment, you will find you enjoy life more fully. Even things you had labeled “dislike” before, can become interesting. You start noticing the joy in simple activities and your life becomes more enjoyable.
Enjoy every moment!