Have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrive at your destination you suddenly snap back into the present, not having noticed the drive itself?
Imagine you are driving to a family gathering when you see a license plate from British Columbia….and down the rabbit hole you go.
Remember that holiday when I was seven and the whole family drove across the country to British Columbia? I loved that holiday. I went swimming in the cold, salty ocean for the first time and floated. We went to the aquarium, and I saw a huge whale in the glass cage. It looked so lonely that I burst into tears.
That following year, when Mom and Dad got divorced, I remembered the whale and the loneliness and felt the lonely like that. That was the last family holiday we had.
By this time you have driven 10 kilometres with no awareness of driving. You have not been conscious of the external, present moment because you have been immersed in your intense thoughts and feelings of your earlier years.
We humans have this amazing and unique capacity to be in two states of consciousness at the same moment. There’s the actual experience of what’s happening and then there’s being aware of the experience itself.
When we don’t stay present in this moment, but become swept away in our thoughts and feelings, that is the opposite of being present.
Mindfulness practice is dedicated to increasing your “witness” or awareness of this moment.
Mostly, we are swept up into an incessant stream of thoughts and feelings that steals our attention from the present moment, like on the drive to the family gathering.
In his book The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer refers to this talking, talking, talking self as an Inner Roommate.“Basically, you’re not alone in there. There are two distinct aspects of your inner being. The first is you, the awareness, the witness, the centre of your willful intentions; and the other is that which you watch. The problem is, the part you watch never shuts up.”
By increasing your awareness of the incessant internal chatting you can begin to cultivate the witness. This is the practice of staying aware of when you are thinking or feeling. Noticing with attention and without judgment is the practice of mindfulness.
As soon as you notice that you are wandering into the past or thinking about the future, bring your attention back to where you are right now. This might seem easy, but is actually quite intense and challenging.
Why is it so hard to pay attention right here, right now? Even as you’re reading these words your inner roommate may be saying, “Don’t forget to put the chicken in the oven at 4:30. And remember you have to call your mom tonight….”
It’s our attachment to the inner thoughts that is the issue and not knowing that we are thinking, thinking, thinking. It can be so familiar and soothing.
So join me this winter for a mindfulness program. Build your capacity to be in this present moment through practicing mindfulness by practicing together in community.
Please feel free to reach out to me to chat further about Mindfulness practices. There are two free Introduction to Mindfulness Sessions at Janati Yoga School Feb 18 at 7 pm and Feb 20 at 2 pm. The 8-week Mindfulness Programs begin Feb 25-Apr 15, 7-9:30 pm and Feb 25-Apr 15, 2-4:30 pm. April 7 is the one day silent retreat.
Susan Young, M.Ad.Ed., PCC, RSSW, is a Life Coach and Mindfulness Facilitator committed to cultivating her own mindfulness.