From the psychologist of the Rehabilitation Unit “Thalpos Attica” Maria Makridaki.
Have you ever felt, while you were having for example a shower, to lose the sense of time? To wonder, when did I go for a shower and when did I come out? Also, those times that we eat so mechanically, absorbed in our thoughts, without realizing when the food ended?
Many of our actions and functions we do not do them consciously but mechanically, away from the present moment. We live and dive in thoughts and feelings about our past or future. We stray for the past, we feel sorry for what we did or did not, and we worry about the potential difficulties of the future. Sometimes, such thoughts and feelings are so intense about the past or future difficulties which make our bodies and minds live perpetually inside the past or future, trapped in these difficulties. We live and focus on our thoughts rather than in the present.
However, there is nothing else to experience directly, beyond the present moment. The past and the future are thoughts, shots and memories. Of course, our ability to relate to the past and design the future is extremely useful to the human species most of times. There is no point in eliminating thoughts about the past or the future, but it would be good if we could be more flexible, for example living the moment when the attachment to the present moment is functional, to think about the future when we are planning something and recall the past when memories are auxiliary. So, mindfulness is the human ability which helps us to be fully focused on the present moment, in our field now, and can be cultivated through practice.
The history of mindfulness has deep roots in eastern religious practices. From Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga, and more recently to non-religious meditation in the West, people practice mindfulness for thousands of years either on their own or as part of a larger tradition. The fact that it has been embraced for so long by so many people in the east and west indicates the universality of its teachings. So, which are these?
We are not just our thoughts and feelings. We are not our mistakes and our choices. Think of yourself as a chessboard, where thousands of games had been played on and more are to be played, various pawns make different moves, but the chessboard does not change, remains stable regardless the outcomes of the games.
Bring in your mind a mountain, rooted deep for millions of years, standing tall and proud. Spring brings vegetation, winter snow and at the meanwhile its forests have been burned for many times. But it is always there at the same place, regardless the changes that are made on it.
The concept of self is similar to this mountain or to this chessboard. It is the arena in which human experiences, feelings, thoughts, senses and memories are taking place, but the self remains unalterable and safe.
Luoma, J.B., Hayes, S.C. , Walser, R.D. (2007). Learning ACT: An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Skills-Training Manual for Therapists. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Photo credits: Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash