There’s nothing quite like the freedom that goes with being your own boss, but one of the most common downsides is the inability to switch off. The practice of ‘being in the moment’, also known as ‘mindfulness’, can help.
It seems so much of our time is spent worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. Thinking about whether we could have done things differently or better; comparing ourselves to our competitors; chastising ourselves over lost opportunities or worrying about where the next contract/client/dollar will come from…these are just some of the things that keep soloists awake at night. More importantly, these things take our attention away from the present moment during the day.
It is only by paying attention to the present moment that we can really improve our overall sense of happiness in life.
In this era of instant everything and perpetual multi-tasking, we rarely stop for long enough to notice the breath we just took or to listen to the sound of our own heartbeat. We find it almost impossible to keep our attention right on the given moment – we’re so quick to move into evaluation mode. As Paul Wilson suggests in his Little Book of Calm, once you’ve had the thought “I really like this flavour, I wonder if it’s lemon or lime?” you’ve moved past the simple act of enjoying the taste.
The practice of ‘being in the moment’ is also known as ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness means bringing the mind fully into the present so that we are completely engaged in what we are doing. It means paying attention to the sensations in our bodies and being consciously aware of our thoughts, our emotions and our feelings.
If you can simply notice what’s going on around you as it happens – without getting involved or interfering – you can become fully present. Initially, people find this practice somewhat difficult. Mindfulness is often easier when you’re involved in a physical activity, like playing a sport or running. The level of physical exertion helps to keeps your mind focused. It can be more difficult to be present to our emotions, particularly the negative ones. Many of us try to push these aside as quickly as they arise by busying ourselves with other thoughts or activities.
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To develop your ‘mindfulness’ practice, begin by becoming more conscious of your senses. Here are some ideas of how to do this:
- Indulge yourself in the beautiful scents around you: a farm fresh strawberry, a freshly cut lime or the smell of the earth after freshly fallen rain.
- Notice the depth of the colours in nature – allow yourself to marvel in their richness and vibrance, notice the subtlety of tone and the complexity of the different hues. Start with the sky in late afternoon….you’ll be amazed at how many shades you see.
- Absorb yourself in the task of eating a piece of chocolate or another food that you love. Take your time to feel the texture and smoothness and thoroughly absorb yourself in your senses…and make sure you enjoy it!
- Lose yourself in your sense of touch. Take an hour out of your weekend to massage a friend’s hands or feet and invite them to close their eyes and just focus on the soothing sense of touch.
Finally, relish your sense of sound. Once again, close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Put on your favourite piece of music and allow yourself to be completely carried away.
These exercises will introduce you to the idea of ‘mindfulness’. Once you are more comfortable with the practice, you can start to bring the concept of mindfulness and being present into your every day.