I have dabbled in mindful living for about a decade, ever since I first read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘New Earth’. While it all made sense to me intellectually, and I spent many hours striving to capture that ever-elusive ‘present moment’, I only ever got glimpses of it. My moments of mindfulness were like glimmers on the surface of a pond, a bright reflection of light there for an instant and gone the next. I travelled to Thailand and Nepal, took yoga classes and eventually became a yoga teacher all in the pursuit of the Now.
I consider myself to be quite in touch with my spiritual side and meditate often. I have spent many hours researching and practicing being present, and still I often found myself in stretches of unconscious thoughts and behaviours.
One evening I was watching a magic show on TV. The program revolved around faith healing and whether it is fact of fiction. Darren Brown, the presenter (or is it performer – I will let you decide) said something that completely startled me. His sentiment was that you become the story you tell yourself about yourself.
That was my a-ha moment. Although I understood it intellectually, I never managed to integrate it into ‘knowing’ before. So I started deliberately practicing mindfulness. I started paying attention to every now that I could anchor in. I would sit and breathe or fully engage with whatever I was doing. Whether it was writing articles or putting on my computer, taking a shower or tying my shoes. I started paying attention more and more, especially to ordinary and boring things in my life. Things that I did as part of a routine that required no attention.
As I started practicing mindfulness during those moments when I could have easily switched to auto pilot, I started to become aware of my thoughts and self-talk. I heard some interesting things – and some very mean things from myself… about myself.
‘You will never make it’, ‘you don’t deserve it’, ‘you are not worth it’… These have been thoughts that I have been working on changing. Each time I would stop the thought and change it into something positive. I would re-frame it to ‘look how far you have come’, or something similar.
Then there were other stories that I would tell myself, stories relating to my abilities and the fact that I am living with depression and (sometimes nearly debilitating) anxiety. I would hear things like ‘this is too overwhelming’ and ‘it is too much, too big, someone with depression cannot possibly get this done’. And every time, every mindful moment when I managed to catch that I simply reminded myself ‘all you need to do is one thing… just one thing… just this one thing’.
And once that one thing was done, I would take a moment to breathe consciously and sit with the heaviness inside of me that has become a rather permanent companion. I would sit in the darkness of me and breathe. And be mindful of my breath. And then I would pull myself together and do the next ‘one thing’. It would start non-committal, and then, as I practice being mindful I would quickly become absorbed in what I was doing and forget all about the heaviness… if only for a few moments of ‘now’.
I had changed my story from thinking that if I attempt one thing, I would have to take on everything… and be perfect at everything. But what practicing mindfulness has taught me is that there is always just one thing… because there is always just that one moment. And that one thing in that one moment is all that matters. Because all of those ‘one things’ eventually sting together to create a life filled with purposeful and conscious living.