I’m sure you’ve got at least one friend like mine, the type that gazes off into space when you are talking, then says ‘What?’ when you get to the end of your sentence. I have an acquaintance who does this constantly, and odder still, forgets whole conversations we have had previously. She worries that she might have Alzheimer’s, or some other progressive brain disease, which is robbing her of her powers of concentration and her memory. A little further investigation revealed the fact that she was off somewhere else in her thoughts while the conversation was going on.
I admit, I’m not the most interesting person you could be stuck in a room with, but this habit of being off somewhere else while someone is talking is a thing most of us do; maybe we even get caught out once in a while nodding in agreement when while our friend looks at us expectantly, waiting to know whether we would like to order pasta from the menu, or go with the chef’s special?
It’s very human of us to be constantly thinking ahead, indeed it’s a strategizing tool the mind is equipped with to help us with survival. We also spend a lot of time living in the past in our heads, because we have a mental schema or map that we need to fit together, and when we get a new piece we have to find where its place is in the jigsaw that comprises our outlook of the world and our individual take on reality.
We use heuristics, mental rules of thumb we have developed from past experience, to help us deal with new situations; they are a kind of mental short-cut we can take to save us from taking all day over every decision. A schema can be described as the script we follow when in a particular recurring situation. The result of using some of these useful tools in our mental toolbox can be helpful, undoubtedly, as problem-solvers. The side-effect of our efficiency as problem-solvers, however, is that we may miss what’s going on right now, because we are either thinking ahead, or looking back, in order to sort and file our experiences into a coherent reality. The implication of this failure to stay in the moment, and experience fully what is happening right now, can result in a feeling of unreality or dullness of experience which robs us of some of our joy in living. Further down the scale of spending too much time in the present or the past lies the depressive outlook, in which distorted ideas based on the stories we tell ourselves about what reality consists of, result in our capacity for logical thought as well as our joy in living to become so eroded that it is difficult for the person to function well at a mental, and often physical, level at all.
The mental and physical realms are connected; science is now confirming what many traditions have asserted, as for example, in Chinese ideas about ‘Chi‘, that the body has an intelligence or brain, as important to our health and vitality as the ‘mainframe’ brain in our head.
One way to get the mental and physical aspects of our bodies hooked up to reality is to do a little meditation on a regular basis. Meditation can take many forms; we have had a look at a popular form of meditation, exercises the body as well as getting the ‘chi’ flowing in a mind-awareness sense, in an earlier post over here. Another popular type of meditation which beginners might like to try out is known as ‘mindfulness‘ meditation. This is a very easy one to get into, because the idea behind it is very simple. Put plainly, this technique makes use of paying attention to one’s breathing in order to access the mind’s ability to stay in the present moment.
That’s basically it, but if you fancy reading a whole book about the concept, you won’t do better than Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power Of Now‘, which is a beautifully written book about what a wonderful thing it is to be noticing everything your body and mind is experiencing right now, rather than being off with the fairies thinking about the future, the past or even comparing what’s going on now with either of these. Eckhart’s book became an even bigger success after he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, but don’t let that put you off har har!
When you get a bit further into meditation, there are all sorts of meditations you can do, all of which are designed to expose how you think, and by exposing it, iron out some of the flaws and traps in thinking that we all tend to get ensnared and entangled by, opening up new vistas where you might surprise yourself in a million ways. Meditation is different for different individuals, but most people find it can be like a wonderful voyage of self-discovery and also a discovery of some of the jewels of living that we all possess as our birthright, and which some of us may have dropped here and there on our way to adulthood. And it’s all right there on front of us, just waiting to be noticed!
If you liked this post, you might want to read my post on ‘Meditation: A Crazy Wisdom’.