Mindfulness is all about knowing what you’re doing and why.
It’s about living in the present and being aware.
Do you tend to avoid the following habits?
You may be more mindful than you think.
1) Eating and living unhealthily
Far too many people live and eat in unhealthy ways.
In fact, over 41.9% of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Granted, obesity may have genetic causes as well and the profusion of seed oils, trans fats and processed garbage in many food products doesn’t help!
But the point is that many people have defaulted to unhealthy habits: they eat far too much fast food, guzzle multiple liters of soft drinks per day and don’t get nearly enough exercise.
They undersleep or oversleep, both of which wreak havoc on our central nervous system, mental health and general state of wellbeing.
Mindfulness is almost impossible when your physical body’s exhaustion and malnutrition is making you feel like a puddle of mud.
If you do your best to practice healthy living and that’s part of your routine then you’re already more mindful than you think.
2) Buying into a negative inner monologue
We’ve all experienced suffering and injustice in life, to varying degrees.
Many of the formative experiences that shape us occur in childhood, and unfortunately peers, parents and authority figures often instill negative narratives into our head.
“I’m not good enough,” “I’m unattractive,” “I’m weird,” “nobody wants me.”
No matter how untrue, such early adopted beliefs that we pick up on or feel as kids can form the core of negative inner monologues.
If you don’t have a negative inner monologue or have learned to not get invested in it, you’re already practicing a key part of mindfulness.
You hear that voice telling you that you will fail, that you aren’t good enough, that you’re not wanted, and you don’t believe it.
You sigh in boredom, get up and do what you were going to do anyway. You don’t deny the negative feelings or thoughts, but you just let them be what they are instead of buying into them.
You’re winning this fight.
3) Living in the past or the future
It’s so easy to get lost in the past or stuck in daydreams about the future.
This isn’t only in a negative or painful sense:
People get very stuck in fond memories of the past or nostalgia, wishing the “good old days” would come back, or the happy family they once had, or the partner they loved so much who left.
They get stuck in daydreams about a future of golden perfection when they’re loved for who they are and really appreciated and happy.
Or they get lost in bitterness about past mistreatment and anxiety and outrage about what’s likely to go wrong in the future.
If you don’t do this, or do it very rarely, you’re much more mindful than you think, because you’re prioritizing the present.
4) Buying into daydreams
Many New Age gurus and “spiritual teachers” talk about how positive visualization and good vibrations can create your ideal future.
They talk about the so-called Law of Attraction and how feeling stuck or getting frustrated about life is just perpetuating a cycle of “resistance.”
The reality is that spending too much time thinking of future scenarios and being positive can leave you blind to threats right on your doorstep and completely out of sync with your present reality.
In other words, if you want to be mindful, focus on the present rather than a golden future.
The best teachings I’ve heard on the reality of spiritual growth and progress comes from the Brazilian shaman Rudá Iandê.
In his free masterclass on spiritual truth, Rudá shows how t0 avoid the common traps that people fall into in their spiritual journey.
He knows, because he fell into such traps himself before realizing what was going on!
Instead, Rudá shows an alternative to the Law of Attractive and “positive vibes” type of spirituality: a real, empowering and authentic spirituality that will actually change your life.
5) Being stuck in ‘psychological time’
The entire issue of being stuck in the past or the future is referred to by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle as “psychological time.”
What he means is that right now in this present moment the past and the future exist in our mind.
Sure, the past did happen and the future hopefully will happen.
But right now at this present moment that you’re reading this, what is happening is this present moment.
The key to mindfulness is to accept and embrace that, rather than clinging to what came before or what may come next.
6) Rejecting and fighting against change
Being stuck in psychological time is a form of resistance to change.
We cling to the past and its pleasures and pains, or we cling to the future and what we want from it or fear from it.
These are control attempts.
To be fair, we can influence the future with our actions and decisions, but those always arise out of the present moment.
So what are you doing right now? Are you breathing deeply? Are you in your body?
If you accept the inevitability of change and feel like you’re home in your body, you’re already much more mindful than you realize.
7) Becoming addicted to suffering
The idea that anyone would be addicted to suffering sounds absurd.
But it’s true.
Sometimes folks get so accustomed to suffering and having difficulties that it’s hard for them to imagine what they would do if everything was suddenly OK.
At the very least they’d feel scared, and at worst they might feel like they lost some of their identity!
After all, if they’re not a victim or defined by their past accident, divorce, being unloved or being harmed in some way by life, then what are they?
If you find that you are ready to not be a victim and to take your suffering less personally, you’re already exercising an absolutely key plank of mindfulness.
8) Being dependent on outer validation
Many folks need outer validation to feel seen and respected.
They have little or no sense of self-worth and purpose inside themselves.
This leaves them easy prey for shady spiritual gurus, bad partners and manipulative narcissists.
It also takes them out of the present and mindfulness and into a constantly needy, insecure state.
If you aren’t dependent on outer validation you’re much more mindful than you realize.
Being naturally mindful
If you find that many of the above habits are outside your norm, then you’re more mindful than you think.
There are some of us who are naturally more mindful than others.
There are some of us who avoid the habits above just as a matter of instinct and how we’re built.
But for most of us, our mindfulness levels fall short now and then and we find ourselves getting tied up in knots at times or falling prey to the monkey mind.
This brings up the next point…
Becoming more mindful
Mindfulness isn’t just a buzzword that spiritual gurus say: it really is a useful and powerful technique and state of mind.
There are various ways to become more mindful.
Mindfulness can be practiced while you’re preparing dinner, washing the dishes, going for a walk or even listening to music.
But one technique which I like in particular is called the five senses technique.
Here’s how to do it:
The five senses technique
This exercise will bring you into your body and greatly boost your mindfulness.
You can do it in only a few minutes and practice it daily.
- What is one thing you can taste right now? Maybe it’s an aftertaste or even just the memory of a taste, but what is it?
- What are two things you can smell right now? What are they? Do you enjoy them or find them unpleasant?
- What are three things you can hear right now? How do they sound? Can you determine what the sounds are?
- What are four things you can touch? What do they feel like? Do they have a temperature or other characteristics?
- What are five things you can see right now? What color are they and what do they make you feel or think of?
When you slip up or get lost in unhealthy patterns from the past or habits that are convenient but ultimately harmful, don’t beat yourself up too much.
Accept your shortcomings and mistakes and continue to be mindful.
It’s all part of the process.