Being mindful is a challenge for me. My mind has a mind of its own, I guess you could say, and when I try to be present in the moment, thoughts bounce around my brain like ping-pong balls. Sometimes it feels like there’s a Rube Goldberg machine in my head—with levers and pulleys and colorful balls that spin off in random trajectories, just like my thoughts do.
This monkey mind comes from living in a world where information screams at us every time we turn around. I do what I can to minimize interruptions, like turning off my iPhone notifications. Everything can wait. I actually feel sorry for people whose lives revolve around their phones. To me, it’s a handy tool, but not one I want to have a close relationship with.
My goal is to be more disconnected. Ironically, I’ve discovered an app that’s helping me do that. It’s called Buddhify, and it leads you through a variety of meditation exercises based on what you’re doing. Recently, friends and I were sitting in my car waiting to meet other friends, and sure enough, I opened my Buddhify app and there was the option, “Waiting Around.” I pressed the shortest exercise, and a calm voice started talking about how to make use of our time better by being mindful. Perfect.
The exercise instructed us to listen to the sounds around us. We could close our eyes if we wanted and simply tune in to whatever noises we heard. We were parked on the edge of a city in a shopping center lot, so there was plenty to listen to. The voice reminded us that when we tune into the sounds around us, we are completely in the moment. Wow. It’s that easy!
Sometimes we forget to pay attention to our senses, to the noises we hear and the smells around us. Closing my eyes helps me block out visual noise—the clutter on my desk, for example—so I can pay better attention to the moment of time I’m in. Try it. Just close your eyes and listen. You’ll find that concentrating on your sense of hearing makes everything else disappear for a little while. Then maybe you’ll hear your dog whining to be let out or your kids fighting over the remote. But you escaped for a few moments at least.
There are many apps out there to help us be more mindful. Sample one or two and next time your thoughts start ping-ponging around your head, open your app and tune out for a little while. When your mini-escape ends, you’ll feel renewed and ready to get back in the saddle again. Not an app fan? No problem. If you need a break, close your eyes and focus on the sounds you hear. Do it as long as you can. It’s a good way to check in with yourself, especially during this crazy time of year.
As 2017 draws to a close, don’t look back at the things you did (and didn’t) accomplish. That’s history. Instead set new intentions for 2018. Write down the places you want to go, the friends you want to spend time with, and a few goals you want to accomplish. Keep it fun. Include playful intentions and activities that make you feel alive.
Meanwhile, we wish you and yours a serene and happy holiday season. See you next year!