Achieving Mindfulness with One Simple Step

Achieving Mindfulness with One Simple Step September 2, 2022

mindfulness
Jen Loong vía Unsplash

We all want to live a mindful life, being fully present in each moment. But too often, we are distracted. Rather than being totally tuned in to our surroundings, or the people in front of us, we are often there in body, but not in mind or spirit.

For some, this is due to an addiction to our smartphones. The small screen in the palm of our hands steals our attention from the more vital big screen of life. Other times, our monkey mind is on the loose, skipping from one random thought to another. We’re thinking about work, our to-do list, an incident from our past, all distracting us from the present moment.

Like me, you might seek out books on mindfulness for tips and pointers. The most famous might be Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are. Its primary message is hinted at in the title, true contentment is found at any place and any time. But if you’re like me, you can read this book and similar titles, feel like you know what mindfulness is all about—and then find that once you get caught up in a hectic day, all that wisdom dissipates like the morning dew. But what if there was…

 A simple daily prompt that can help you be more mindful

Wouldn’t it be great if, when you find yourself not fully present, there were a few words you could use to get immediately back on track? I may have found them courtesy of Dan Millman, author of the long-ago spiritual classic Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Millman later wrote a follow-up called No Ordinary Moments, A Peaceful Warrior’s Guide to Daily Life.

In the book, Millman discloses that as a young man, he was once struck by a realization so profound it changed the course of his life. His story goes like this: Millman was outdoors in a park and after practicing a disciplined t’ai chi routine, he went to put on a pair of sweatpants over his running shorts. As a group of teenagers watched, he began to coolly pull up his sweats, only to lose his balance, stumble backward and fall on his butt. Millman realized:

I had given my full attention to the movements of t’ai chi, but not to the “ordinary” moments of putting on my pants. I had treated one moment as special and the other as ordinary.

To repeat the key words, he “treated one moment as special and the other as ordinary.” From this brief experience, Millman came to the follow realization:

There are no ordinary moments

Millman goes on to tell his teacher from Way of the Peaceful Warrior, an odd fellow named Socrates, about his experience falling down in front of others. The teacher informs him:

Athletes practice their athletics; musicians practice their music; artists practice their art. The peaceful warrior practices everything. That is a secret of the Way, and it makes all the difference.

Millman takes this lesson to heart and teaches us that “walking, sitting, breathing, eating, taking out the trash, all deserve the same attention.” Life is a series of moments, and each moment deserves the same amount of personal awareness and respect. To that end, as we go through life, we are either awake or asleep, “fully alive or relatively dead.” In his words:

The quality of each moment depends not on what we get from it, but from what we bring to it.  And by treating every action with respect and every moment as sacred, you will find a new relationship with life, filled with passion and purpose.

For those who say they’d like to live a more mindful life, but that the demands of work, kids, etc., are too strenuous, Millman reminds us that all moments, even the stressful ones, are what makes up our lives. Each moment is precious and counts for something. In his words:

Your relationship with your wife, the responsibilities of children, the pressures of your job—are your spiritual practice. When you recognize this, every moment takes on a greater purpose. 

So how do we stay more mindful? Remind yourself of these words daily, hourly, every five minutes if needed. Write them on sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror, the fridge, the dashboard, or in your notebook:

 There are no ordinary moments

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