Hey Mister, where you going in such a hurry
Don’t you think it’s time you realized
There’s a whole lot more to life than work and worry
All the sweetest things in life are free
And they’re right before your eyes
Lyrics: Mac Davis and,Doc Severinsen
In a self-centred, self-indulgent world where self-worth is measured in how good we look in a selfie, life’s tough. Kim Kardashian knows. “People don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect,” she wails. I understand Kim, I really do. I too have been on that endless journey for perfection.
I have taken to heart list upon list of top tips for self-improvement and revised my position when it really matters, especially after reading how to expunge the 8 laundry sins that are ruining my clothes, adopt the 10 top tips for tackling the gym, do as I am bid with the 5 health fads to avoid though raw, blitzed kale in a smoothie has been omitted for some unexplained reason, and I am ruminating on all 34 tips on how to boost my sex life. I get the theory but with my bung knee I don’t think I will be able to get my leg over if you get my meaning.
To deal with the overload of daily stresses, near crisis points, relentless onslaught of fear mongering – sugar kills, bananas give you belly fat, stilettos cause bunions – and top tips I have been on a journey. I am not alone on this journey. I’m with Kim, celebrity chefs, rugby coaches, Victoria Beckham’s posh dresses for a charity auction, a neurosurgeon who is back from the dead, Pippa Middleton: life after the wedding, Tony Blair and his fantastical autobiography, Barak Obama’s reworked battle hymn for the nation of “yes we can” to “so sue me” and every weight watcher. Kim has also been on a “love journey” – her way of describing her Florentine nuptials. I can think of others.
But despite all this caring and over sharing of each other’s journeys, I’m still unfulfilled, feeling more like “a real Nowhere Man, Sitting in his Nowhere Land.” However, I still have a point of view and a plan. I am not going to continue with a mindless journey to Nowhere when I should be here now! I am going to reduce stress, increase self-enlightenment, health and creativity by practicing Mindfulness and live in the present for this moment.
Okay so it sounds familiar this be here now – and so it should. It is déjà vu for a few. Popularised by Ram Dass, formerly known as Dr Richard Alpert, a prominent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Timothy Leary in the 60s.
Ram Dass got his guru name from his guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru to the Beatles, and the Be Here Now culture was born, carrying along millions on the journey, but a mindful journey this time, helping to free them from their bonds through transcendental meditation, yoga and learning to live in the present moment.
Although mindfulness has only recently been embraced by Western psychology, it is an ancient practice found in a wide range of Eastern philosophies, including Buddhism, Taoism and Yoga. Winnie the Pooh also braced the Tao. I like to think I am embracing it too with Pilates.
“Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. It is the art of conscious living,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world authority on the use of mindfulness training in the management of clinical problems
And it’s no longer just switched on individuals practicing mindfulness by whatever name it goes by but also the corporate world, minus the kaftans, beads and LSD, because even the accountants can see that workplace wellness programmes that deliver health and happiness also equal more dollars and cents. Besides, for the highly stressed suits it may well be a matter of life over death!
According to the World Health Organisation, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion. Over the last 30 years, self-reported levels of stress have increased 18 percent for women and 25 percent for men. This has huge consequences, of course, because of the role stress plays in a wide array of illnesses. Like high blood pressure, which afflicts nearly 70 million, and which costs $130 billion a year to treat. Or diabetes, which 25 million Americans have. It’s estimated that 75 percent of all health care spending is on chronic illnesses like these that can be prevented.
“I …want to talk about maximising profits and beating expectations by emphasising the notion that what’s good for us as individuals is also good for corporate America’s bottom line. When we separate these two worlds, the costs come in two forms. First, there are the direct costs due to stress and its associated medical conditions, and, second, there’s the cost of lost creativity and diminished performance and productivity,” says Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post founder and author of Thrive, an elegant treatise on living mindfully.
She makes an impassioned and compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world. Money and power – the traditional measures of success – have led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, and an erosion in the quality of our relationships, family life, and, ironically, our careers, she says. In being connected to the world 24/7, we’re losing our connection to what truly matters. Our current definition of success is literally killing us.
We need a new way forward to thrive – a third metric for defining success — to truly thrive. That third metric, she writes in Thrive, includes our well-being, our ability to draw on our intuition and inner wisdom, our sense of wonder, and our capacity for compassion and giving.
A whole mindful support industry is cashing in on the trend.
There is a rash of mindful books, blogs, cognitive therapy courses, counsellors, practical guides, school sessions, of course let’s not forget instant top tips and Mindfulness for Dummies, mindful vacation packages and retreats, and mindful exercises. You could try a mindfulness taster exercise with “tasting the raisin”. Go to (http://hfhc.ext.wvu.edu/r/download/114469).
You can practice these mindful exercises at any time to help you be fully present, better connected, more positive to your daily grind and more aware of the here and now.
Not wanting to leave you starting out on your journey to Mindfulness ill prepared, here are top 10 tips for living life in the present
Life in the Here and Now
1. Do one thing at a time
Follow the Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
2. Do it slowly and deliberately.
Take your time. Savour the moment.
3. Do less.
Do what’s important and let go of what’s not.
4. Put space between things.
Manage your time so you have time to complete each task and have some space between.
5. Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing.
Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you.
6. Stop worrying about the future — focus on the present.
Be aware of how and what you are thinking. Recognise the patterns that trigger your anxieties. Bring yourself back to the present, what you’re doing right here, right now.
7. When you’re talking to someone, be present.
Lose the iPhone. Connect with the person you are with. Be present. Enjoy the company.
8. Eat slowly and savour your food and your life.
Don’t bolt your food. You’re not at boarding school. Taste it. Savour each bite slowly and enjoy it. You’ll enjoy it more and eat less. Slow down. Smell the flowers. Listen to the sounds. Appreciate the sights around you. Live every moment.
9. Turn daily chores into meditation times.
Think about what you are doing. Enjoy the minutiae. Enjoy the results of your efforts.
10. Breathe deeply – and stop and smell the roses.