By Beren Sabu
Am I going to be late to work? What does FAFSA want now? Could this bus go any slower? During the day you bombard yourself with countless questions. You have bills to pay, homework to finish, jobs to clock into, relationships and friendships to tend to. Life is busy and you probably feel like you’re in a car going full speed with no brakes. You might feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed by your life; maybe it’s a little too much or maybe you’re not satisfied. You hate the mediocre tasks in your life, such as washing the dishes or your long commute. Your life may be busy but all you have to do is breathe. John Lennon once said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” As cliche as this saying may be, it is true.
Why don’t you enjoy your commute?
Your life is spent rushing from one place to another. Any tedious task you have to do should be turned into a brief, meditative break; you should concentrate on whatever you are doing at that second. Stop violently thinking. “Violently thinking” is a term I created for aggressively and simultaneously thinking about many things at a time instead of focusing on the task at hand. If you learn to appreciate even the most mediocre of tasks, mindfulness will be a virtue that comes easily to you. One of the best definitions of mindfulness I’ve come across was that of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” It is nearly impossible to totally stop yourself from thinking. Many Buddhists meditate all throughout their lifetime to be able to ‘not think’. While achieving Nirvana may be hard, especially in the city, through mindfulness you can achieve a more relaxed state of mind. There are countless mindfulness articles online and I fully encourage you to read them because the following three ways to live in the present are subjective to me.
The first mindfulness tip: do not reach for your phone first thing in the morning. Why do you always reach for your phone when you wake up? Apart from the very annoying alarm you need to turn off, if there is’t a pressing reason to check your phone, you should break the habit. The “likes” and comments on social media and that cute “Good morning” text can wait. You have a full day ahead of you, so why not take that time to relax and pamper yourself. Brush your teeth and wash your face leisurely. Make breakfast, paying attention to the food. Grab a book or magazine and eat your food while you’re reading. I’ve been starting my day with that routine and I don’t remember ever feeling as peaceful as I do now.
Another important mindfulness tip: try and enjoy even the most tedious of tasks. Life is really marvelous when you think about it. The colors, the people and the emotions make life what it is and every bit of it is filled with wonder. Call me weird, but I genuinely enjoy washing the dishes. There are several positive implications when washing dishes. This means I had food, I have running water, I have a house or better yet, a friend has invited me over to theirs. I am simply happy I’m lucky enough to wash them. Appreciating and finding wonder in “tediousness” means you get to go to bed with a smile on your face.
Lastly: stop comparing yourself to others. This tip might feel a little out of place considering its connection to mindfulness is not an obvious one. The connection is surprisingly tangible albeit, subtle. I don’t like comparing myself to those who are less fortunate simply because the happiness I’d get from comparison leads to sadness I’ll get from another. Saying “at least I have running water while X doesn’t” leads to saying “why don’t I have a big house like Y.” Why would you enjoy the commute while Z has their own driver? Stop comparing and stop sabotaging your happiness.
I get it, life is busy; it can be stressful and you gotta do what you gotta do. Mindfulness just ensures that you do whatever you normally do with a little more panache.