How Mindfulness Can Save Your Life

Mindfulness

This is a Guest Post from Tisha Berg, and it might just save your life.

Do you multi-task?

Probably multiple times a day, right?

Well, contrary to all the articles you’ve no doubt read about the waysto “multi-task the right way”, I’m here to tell you that you probably shouldn’t do it at all and here’s why…

Earlier this week, my 4-year old daughter ran across a busy street by herself. All alone. Without me.

She was unharmed, but I’m sure you understand just how horrifying that scenario is.

Now, I realize that you probably didn’t expect to read something like the previous two sentences in an article about mindfulness (or the lack of it), but the back-story is an essential part of understanding how my ruminations on the extreme importance of living with less distractions came about.

So, please indulge me for a bit…I promise I’ll get to the point in short order.

I left my daughter safely (or so I thought) buckled in her car seat, while I ran across the street to the elementary school entrance to get my older daughter.

It only took me about 2 minutes total to grab my 6-year-old’s hand and then turn around to return to the car.

During this time, my 4-year old had unbuckled herself, opened the door and run out into the street to “come give me a hug.”

As I sit here playing with my daughter a few days later, I feel compelled to keep hugging and kissing her, but my mind keeps returning to something she said to me the day after the incident.

I had scooped her up to tell her how much I loved her – much like I did once I got over being so upset that she had crossed the street alone. She leaned back from me a bit and looked at me curiously. “What’s the matter?” I asked her.

You just told me you love me“, she said, “but I didn’t do anything wrong.”

My kids surprise me all the time, but this statement made my mouth drop open.

After reassuring her that she didn’t need to do anything wrong for me to tell her that I loved her, I began to reflect on the times that I most often say those three little words to my daughters:

  • at bedtime, before they go to sleep
  • when I drop them off at school and day-care
  • when they get hurt and need cheering up
  • after apologising to them for getting upset or yelling at them

It seems that the common thread for my saying “I love you” was usually either something upsetting happening or my leaving them.

Where Mindfulness Comes in

See? I told you I’d get there eventually.

I thought back to the day of the incident and why I was parked across the street in the first place. I had been late for pick-up (again) and to avoid having to circle the block and keep my 6-year old waiting for me, I went across the street.

Had I arrived on time, or early, I would have had ample time to find parking and leisurely walk to the school entrance. I’ve never before been that concerned with my constant tardiness, but in this instance, I thought about what my lateness could have ultimately cost me.

So, what does this have to do with mindfulness? Well, for starters, it’s about being 100% where you’re supposed to be in any given moment.

What I didn’t realize until now is that my punctuality issues are a matter of too much distraction. I’m never where I’m supposed to be on time because I’m always too busy playing catch-up.

Keeping Up With the…Costa Ricans?

The fast-pace of today’s world causes many people to feel that it’s wrong not to try to squeeze every possibility into each moment. But, in reality, it’s this kind of thinking that is wrong and does nothing to contribute to our overall happiness.

Just ask the people of Costa Rica.

According to the Happy Planet Index and the World Database of Happiness, the people of this small South American nation are among the happiest people in the world.

Given that Costa Rica is “still considered a ‘developing nation’ whose per-capita income is less than one tenth of ‘first world nations’ like the U.S or the U.K”, it’s clear that money, material possessions, fame or notoriety don’t have anything to do with overall well-being.

To the contrary, it’s the Costa Ricans’ focus on sustainable living, education and self-referral that helps them earn the top spot on the happiness list.

“Pure Vida”

The Costa Ricans often refer to the idea of “Pure Vida” or “pure life” and they take delight in each moment as a celebration. There doesn’t need to be a reason for experiencing joy…it’s just what’s expected.

And what’s expected of us here in this country?

To do more, be more, achieve more and never stop moving – which has landed us at a very low-on-the-totem pole rank of 114 on the Happiness Index.

I know the multi-tasking go-getters in all of you might rebel against what I’m about to say with every fibre of your being…but you’ve got to let some things go.

You can’t be fully present for the things that matter if you’re always planning for the next thing in your head.

Put everything except the most important essentials on the backburner. Keep a running list on your memo-pad of “things to get to when time allows”, then take a deep breath and enjoy the moments.

Each. And. Every. One.

The Payoff

So, how will your life improve when you start paying more attention?

Well, I, for one, have made a practice this past week of really listening when I’m having a conversation.

I used to be so eager to jump in with a comment just to keep the conversation flowing, but this week, I wanted to make a genuine effort to stop, talk less and take in more. The result after just a couple of days is that I actually answer my phone now.

I still prefer a face to face chat, but my shift from talking a lot to listening a lot made the prospect of phone conversations seem much less exhausting.

Much more important than pleasant phone conversations, though, is the lifestyle effect that slowing down and being more mindful can have on us.

Will learning to live in the moment bring perfection? No. But I’ll settle for second chances and tiny glimpses into “Pure Vida” on a daily basis.

Tisha Berg, is a freelance writer who blogs about spirituality, family, making money online and life in the minimalist lane. You can connect with Tisha on Twitter @TishaBerg.

*Photo Credits:  fabriziocolors, jguzm

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Comments

  1. Living the Balanced Life says

    I am trying so hard to get to the place of mindfulness! I am making progress, but it is slow! But it is oh so important!
    I want to visit Costa Rica someday soon!
    Bernice

    • Bernice, we should all go to Costa Rice together and really learn to chill out!

      And maybe you don’t need to try so hard to get to a place of mindfulness:-)

    • Hang in there Bernice. It takes constant practice and I know it can be a challenge, but you can do it! Remember that slow and steady wins the race…and don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest victories.

  2. Trisha, thanks so much for your guest post and sharing your personal story of your daughter.

    It’s sobering to learn that children can learn to think that love is conditional and how they can only be loved when they are “good” or “not good” in this case.

    A few years ago, after a personal development event, I called one of my nephews who was 12 at the time. The idea was to call our loved one and let them know that they were loved.

    I told my nephew that I loved him and asked him if he knew that I did. He replied – “Yes I do, but you never say it!”

    That was a heart rending reply and just what I needed to hear to become more present to him and others around me.

    Talk about mindfulness training from a child!

    Thanks again Trisha for your wonderful gift of a present:-)

    • Arvind,
      Again, I thank YOU for hosting me on this wonderful space of yours. Children do indeed have a way of pulling all the things that really matter into crystal clear focus. I often say that I am raising myself through raising my kids! How wonderful that you took the time to reach out to your nephew and tell him that you love him. Too often those words go unsaid, especially to extended family members or friends we don’t see as much as we’d like.

  3. Tisha,

    I loved your post and the lesson of mindfulness it brings to all of us.

    I agree: “…money, material possessions, fame or notoriety don’t have anything to do with overall well-being.” I would like to add sensory experiences to that list. They might be fleeting moments of happiness, but not true, lasting happiness.

    I actually think that living in the moment will indeed bring perfection!

    Thanks for the great read.

    • Hi Sandra,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this post. It was hard to write about at first because I kept replaying in my head what could have happened that day.
      I agree that sensory experiences can be quite distracting and not something we should depend on over the long run to sustain our happiness. Gladly, a few weeks later I find myself still remembering to take things in moment by moment. Thanks so much for your comments!

  4. Tisha – Thanks for a wonderful insight into your personal world, as well as a beautiful lesson on mindfulness. It usually takes something out of the familiar (like your daughter running across the street) to snap us into that mindfulness, but the more we can practice it, the better we’ll be in the long run.

    Arvind – Your guest posts are truly exceptional my friend, you must have a gift for choosing great writers! I can only hope that I’ll write for you one day. Pure vida!

    P.S. See you in Costa Rica! 😉

    • Hi Stuart!
      Yes, I am trying to make that lesson stick for sure by taking moments during the day now to really pay attention to not only what’s going on around me, but checking in with how I feel as well. With so much going on, it’s easy for us to put our own feelings last sometimes.
      And I’m loving this Costa Rica group trip idea!! 🙂

  5. The rush of life and all the things we just have to do. Time is of the essence and yet it flits by us as we plan our day and play catch up with what we failed to achieve the day before.

    This is not life but survival as we try to do everything except appreciate what life is all about. Money, career, chores and the pursuit of happiness. Society has made us into machines that we were never designed to be.

    Pure Life is an excellent way to live. Not diluted by the aspirations and dreams that we’ve been sold but by living in the moment, reveling in what we have, enjoying who we are and being thankful for all the blessings that surround us.

  6. Stuart, I am glad you like my guest writers. That’s great feedback from you.

    It will be an honour to have you write a guest post for Make It Happen one day:-)

  7. Andre – I LOVE that you point out that living without mindfulness is just survival, not really living. Merely getting by until the next crisis is no way to experience the joy and enlightenment we are all here to take part in. Thanks so much for your extremely insightful comments!

  8. Joe Wilner says

    Tisha,

    Thanks for the wonderful example of how scattered attention can really disrupt what’s most important. It really is a strange phenomenon that we all want to “keep up with the Jones'” in Western culture. It really is a clear and predominant part of the culture, and once these values set in they become difficult to change. Though, as more people are recognizing the value of balancing life and focusing of what truly matters, a shift is starting to take place. Thanks for the reminder to be more mindful and really consider what we pay attention to.

  9. Hi Tisha (& Hi Arvind),
    You know, I’ve read lots and lots about mindfulness, even practice it when I’m mindful enough to (!), but something about this post is just so effective. I don’t know if it’s the way it’s written or the compelling story you tell, but I can already feel its effect.
    What a great way to start my day.
    Thanks so much to both of you!

    • How wonderful Patti! I’m so glad this message spoke to you in a really effective way. I so appreciate your kind comments. May the inspiration continue with all those you come in contact with during the day! 🙂

  10. What an excellent reminder as I start my day.Thank you. I feel more peaceful already.

  11. So true. We’re constantly worrying and never really there – anywhere. Am learning too, how important it is, to be here . Meditation helps. Mental chatter goes down and am automatically present. Still have to get regular at it though. Thanks for a great post.

    • My pleasure Uzma! Meditation is an excellent way to stay in a “present” state of mind. Doesn’t have to be a huge involved process, either. Just standing still for a few minutes and breathing deeply is a great way to stay centered throughout the day!

  12. Hi Joe!
    Yes, I truly believe there is a global shift happening and there’s so many more people opting to do more life-sustaining things and choosing to embrace awareness over indifference. Let’s hope it continues!

  13. Hi Tisha
    That incident with your daughter precipitated so much change in you. Even just reading the sorry sparked off all sorts of things in my head.
    “Yes” to the notion that “I love you“ can get lost in the transmission. I always used to wish my parents liked me instead! These days I tend to tell my own children (now aged 35 and 33) that they are “all right” but in the tone of voice that I hope conveys a lot more.
    “Yes” to the idea of questioning multi-tasking. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Sometimes it can be useful to combine a physical task with a mental one, but they do say that each task deserves full attention. Eventually I might even know what I think.
    “Yes” to the reminder about how quickly children can die. Sorry, but there it is. I took my two children swimming once. They must have been about 2 and 4 years old. We were all in the paddling pool, where they could both easily stand with the water waist-deep. Something made me turn round and look at my son (2). His head was under water and his arms were moving agitatedly, but under water there was no sound. The thought that he could have drowned so quickly and silently while I was right there gave me an awful fright.
    Thanks for your post!
    Jenny

    • Hi Jenny,
      Wow, what a horrifying incident with your kids at the swimming pool! Thankfully both our situations had a happy ending. I think it is truly all those moments of mistakes, accidents, regrets, etc. that teach us the best lessons and yes, for me, always creates a shift in perspective. Although shaken and remorseful, I am grateful for the chance to reflect on what really matters.

  14. Hi Tisha,
    I was overwhelmed with four children under four the only time I would get up at 5:00 am to get alone time. I would read, write in my journal and sometimes go for a run before anyone else opened their eyes. I know this saved me;)

    Now at 56, I’ve slowed down, do what I love, moved to AZ to escape MI winters and can say personally I rate high on the happiness scale. I can’t say I wasn’t happy in the early days, just didn’t have time to catch my breath!

    Thanks for the reminder to keep on keepin’ on in the present moment and happy. The blog word attempts to suck me in on doing to much repeatedly.

  15. Bold and beautiful writing that reminds us all to be present and take notice. Thank you for sharing.

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