With Mindfulness Awareness Practice, It’s All in the Moment

Contentment in New York City

Mindfulness-Awareness Practice provides us with the tools to reframe our world, no matter where we find ourselves. 

Have you ever found yourself in the back of a New York City taxicab? Possibly being smothered by your own outerwear? Maybe receiving an email that needs immediate attention beyond what you can offer in a Gmail reply? Maybe the News is growling in the background and the latest political crisis is subtly causing your blood pressure to rise. Perhaps you’re watching the meter, and asking yourself why exactly you couldn’t just walk the extra blocks to the subway? Then “all of a sudden” for “no reason” you want to lay down in a dark, quiet, nothing-can-reach-me place.

Sometimes, it’s literally a struggle not to plain freak out. We get overwhelmed, we become flooded with the pressure of ordinary situations. We experience so much frustration.

These struggles are ordinary, and workable, but the fact that they are not life-threatening doesn’t change how we experience them. We are experiencing dissatisfaction and it’s hard to deal.

Dissatisfaction we know well, but its opposite, contentment, can be a bit more ambiguous to us. What is contentment exactly? Is that something we even want? For many, contentment might be associated with anything from, “complacency,” to “surrender,” or maybe, “dead inside” but, like most worthwhile attainments, contentment is a bit of a paradox.

It may seem the only way out of discontentment is to address all the individual offenders of “planet-me.” This can really snowball, as we saw in the oh-so-relatable taxicab example, and can lead to all kinds of neurotic fixations and compulsions. Whether we’re over-eating, over-spending, over-Netflixing or we’re overwhelmed, oversaturated, or generally ‘over’ everything, the swirl of our minds can begin to confuse what’s clear, present, and accessible: the present moment.

With one breath, we can drop ourselves back into that present moment. In hindsight, we can see that before we came back to the present, we were caught up in runaway thoughts and feelings. We see that we were tricked into grabbing for every consideration that made a pass for our attention.

And why wouldn’t we fall for this? Our stories, our ideas, our interpretations are compelling. They’re custom made by us, for us. We don’t want to let go of them. Actually, we want to dive in. Get lost. Go swimming. The trouble is, we sometimes get pulled under.

This realization on its own doesn’t alleviate our frustrations. But there’s some good news. We can take that breath. We can feel that moment. We can connect with a more basic state of mind, a state that is not dependent on thoughts. We can just be.

We know this already but we forget it. Or, more realistically, we don’t have the tools to get from the confused place to the content place, even though both are possible in the same moment.

Learning to practice mindfulness meditation is like learning the magic trick to turn on the lights with your mind. It’s a technique for parachuting out of burning plane and dropping onto solid ground. At the very least, mindfulness meditation is a tool that makes the chaotic moments a little less chaotic.

As we practice, we see the contrast between here and not here. We learn to better trust that present moment. We learn that it won’t let us down, no matter where we are.

Learn mindfulness-awareness meditation with our “Contentment in Everyday Life” series.

Contentment in Everyday Life” offers experiential training in contentment and an exploration of the obstacles to experiencing simplicity, gentleness and mindfulness in everyday life. The 5-week series is offered in the evenings or during the day on Thursdays beginning January 21st.