Much before shifty-eyes, shrinking attention-spans and selfies were a thing, there was this idea of living in the Present. It’s an idea from the Buddhist school of thought I first heard back when I was in college. Somewhere between my first phone and my fifth phone, I forgot all about it.
As we crammed our hands with bigger screens and our heads with people & pet virality, we lost track of what was happening in front of us. For many, this realization did nothing. They continued with the enthusiastic and emotionally retarded belief that salvation can only be found on the Internet.
For others, the realization felt frightening and led them in search of a solution. As always the solution came in the form of an old, simple practice: Living in the present.
But since you threw-up the first time you heard that, live in the present got a fancy name on its comeback:
It was intriguing at first. Until a bunch of people ruined it by saying you had to sit on a special mat and be bendy and definitely smile at the morbid-ass thoughts floating in your head — for twenty full minutes. The typical 21st-century response: neuroticism.
I got two mats. But I only stumbled onto the real meaning of mindfulness on this random day.
That day, I walked (on the earth) with a smile on my face, looking (softly) at the birds, sun, trees, ants, and pigeon-shit. I rested (gently) to watch the sunset, the moon and then peered into the soul of the stars.
Truth: I forgot my phone, couldn’t run without the music, so I walked and all that happened.
I want to tell you how that day transformed my life and that you must all try it. But — I felt nothing. I was bored, plenty bored.
And that’s precisely why you must try it.
We think of mindfulness as this state of paying attention to something and filling up with abundant joy, beauty and having wild epiphanies and hearing your soul stir a large pot of love inside you.
Most times, it’s you standing in front of the Eiffel tower and dumbly staring at it for 60 minutes all the while sneering at everyone taking selfies and thinking of the Nutella crepe and Fries you will eat for lunch that afternoon.
The first truth about mindfulness is that it is boring. It feels like that because of all the years of training you have gone through inside the digital playground. When you get out of the noise, you realize three things:
3. They have a restroom at the very top of the Eiffel Tower.
Another truth about mindfulness is that you will constantly feel like you are missing out on something. Even when you are doing that very thing. It’s the 21st-century human epidemic.
Your thoughts are telling you how in spite of all the mindfulness you are trying, what everyone else is looking at is far more interesting. And how you have waited long enough and it’s time you click a selfie. And how you must ensure you include the fact that you went to the Eiffel tower in one of your essays.
Mindfulness is just that. Wrestling with your thoughts all the while trying to make sense of everything happening around you. It’s walking hand in hand with boredom while watching some dork walking hand in hand with a belle Parisian.
But, why would you punish yourself with mindfulness when you could do something more productive and change the world?
Ironical as this sounds, you see the beauty of mindfulness, of the present moment, only when you look back. You notice how the boredom lent a richness to all your experience. You begin to see things you never knew you noticed.
Living in the present or mindfulness helps you tell deeper, richer and detailed stories of the past. Not artificial romanticization of things you never felt.
Mindfulness is the intricate detail of the life painting we are constantly working on. Remove the details and what you have left is a shallow image filled with an assortment of spilled thoughts and vague color.
Mindfulness is not a solution during the storm. It is the storm. It’s the storm that pulls you away from your sheltered, filtered and littered existence into depth and richness you would have otherwise missed in your attempt at catching up.
Mindfulness is what makes the painting you leave behind worthy of the million minutes you spent on it. The painting is your life. Live, sucker.