Is it difficult for you to stay focused on the task at hand? How often have you wanted to dedicate yourself to completing an important job or project that you had pending? How often do you get lost in your thoughts for a long time without realizing it? Can you free yourself from your worries? Do you recreate memories? Do you constantly check the messages that come into your cell phone? Do you feel like the days are going by too fast, and you need more time to enjoy them?
We do not live in the information age but in the age of distraction
Do you know that distractions can take more than two hours of our day? Do you know it takes fifteen to twenty minutes to refocus after losing focus? And distractions reduce our ability to understand, memorize, and make good decisions.
In a logical world, technology would make us work less because it helps us identify and solve problems faster. But his dark side is becoming more and more present. It attacks personal life, is hard to turn off, there is too much information available, and it is hard for us to process it all, and too many distractions invade us. We are increasingly hooked and even abducted by the devices that are supposed to make our lives easier. We suffer more anxiety and exhaustion than at any previous time.
I started meditation as part of my spiritual path more than twenty years ago. The truth is that in the beginning, I practiced only occasionally. As is often the case for humans, I always needed to find the ideal time to carry out my plan. I thought I had many obligations to fulfill and required more time.
Only years later, I realized its importance and the urgent need to integrate it into my daily life. When I first traveled to India, I decided to train with a teacher to fit this new habit into my life, take it seriously, and continue regularly back home. It has been seventeen years since then. The lamas with whom I began to study in Dharamsala emphasized how important it is to practice. I can confirm that it changes your life. However, like so many things in life, it is of little use to be told unless you take action. You must experience it for yourself before you can appreciate the impact it can have.
Mindfulness is not the easiest skill to learn, possibly because we have spent our entire lives developing mental habits contrary to the ideal of mindfulness, and now we have to unlearn them. Strategy and practice are needed to get rid of this.
How can you tell that you are making progress?
Many distractions that beset us are not external but internal. Most of our stress comes from our own thoughts. Our mind is tough to control. It enjoys getting lost in the twists and turns of the past, dreams of another future, and worries about possible problems. As our mental turmoil calms, clarity is created, and we face daily life with greater serenity, equanimity, and lucidity.
Mindfulness is a simple technique that becomes more powerful as we become aware of the repetitive thought patterns in our minds. We practice patiently when things are going well. So, when stressful or confusing situations happen, we can see our intense emotions as just mental states and not as reflections of reality. That is what allows us to free ourselves from its influence gradually.
We will avoid getting stuck. We will be able to let go of grievances. Although mindfulness cannot prevent us from experiencing pain and sorrow, it does allow us to face life honestly and transparently, without a shield. We want to approach life to overcome pain without turning it into suffering.
Wisdom has nothing to do with filling our minds with information. It is more about being content with the world without trying to adjust it to our desires. We begin to experience a certain inner peace when we accept that we cannot always get things to be the way we want, which is okay. We also stop judging every situation as good or bad, as we no longer confuse reality with our interpretation. Furthermore, we become aware of our mental filters and how they often affect our experience.
When we go beyond a result-oriented mindset, the practice of meditation begins to feel more beneficial. We improve our flexibility, tolerance, and compassion. We are more likely to forgive and forget. Moreover, we begin to feel greater love for others because we make a greater effort to understand them. Because we also understand ourselves better. We become more humble and compassionate when we learn to see inside and see our fantasies, weaknesses, and human errors.
We savor every moment. Every day, every action, and every circumstance has relevance by itself; moments do not remain blurred in unconsciousness. Nothing is taken for granted or belittled. Ordinary and boring experiences no longer exist since everything begins to take on a certain brightness. We avoid categorizing experiences, pigeonholing them, and abandoning continuous descriptions and judgments about people and events. Each moment has something to contribute, something to say. When we respect it enough to stop and listen without understanding is how we begin to appreciate the magic of existence.
Practicing mindfulness regularly does not stop the ups and downs of life. However, the tension, fear, and concern do subside. The agitation subsides, and wild passions calm. All the pieces eventually find their place without struggling or fighting against the unpleasant aspects of life. Life becomes more like a glider gliding through the winds and above storms than a fierce battle.
“I find hope in the darkest days, and I focus on the bright because I do not judge the universe.” — the Dalai Lama
* Author: Mónica Esgueva