Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mindful Living

I have been encouraged by several different sources lately to consider how "mindfully" I am living my life, and how that is affecting my happiness and anxiety. "Mindfulness" simply means being aware of and living in the moment, rather than fretting over the past or worrying about the future. Eckhart Tolle points out in his book A New Earth (which I'll warn you is pretty weird and probably isn't the best place to start reflecting on this) that truly only the present exists; the past is just memories and the future exists only in our imagination. The past and future are simply a row of moments of "now" placed one after the other in our mind. The only place we can truly live is "now," because it is the only time that exists outside of our minds, yet how many people never truly live in "now" because they are mulling over the past or the future?  It is only in the present moment that we can meet and connect with other people in our lives, and not being mindful of "now" also means not being mindful of what other people and what they may need or can offer to you.

This has been a major problem for me. All too often I try to escape my life instead of living in it and being present to it. The internet and message boards have been a major means of escape for me, as have reading books, spending time thinking about "how things will be" at some point in the future, curriculum planning, or just mulling over theoretical issues of theology and philosophy. Oh, and this blog. ; ) None of these things are bad in and of themselves, and in fact each of them is good and can be beneficial in its proper place. However, when they are being used as a means to avoid dealing with the present moment and its frustrations and demands (all too often, my children) then they become detrimental to my overall emotional and spiritual health.

While some of the sources advocating mindfulness come from an Eastern or New Age perspective, I've also been encouraged to reflect on this by sources coming from a purely psychological perspective, which consider mindfulness important for mental health, and sources coming from a Christian perspective. I've just begun reading The Sacrament of the Present Moment which seems to take mindfulness to its next logical step in the Christian life: after becoming aware of the present moment, one asks, "What does God will for me to do right now?" Now, if only I can remember to ask this of myself.


  1. Let me add that this is all VERY helpful (I do notice things in our house), and things are much better in our house (even if they might be whacked-out in the Tolle-house).

  2. When Katie and Tom were littler, I tried very hard to be more mindful. It made a huge difference! I learned that the more I try to retreat from the moment, the more they try to pull me back (loudness, wildness, fighting, whining, etc). I've gotten slack about it lately, though. Reading your post inspires me to try harder. Thanks!

  3. Exactly. I do the same things. Great post.

  4. If you have a copy of Screwtape handy, check out Chapter XV.

    "The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

    "Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. . . . His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy's commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other—dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present."


What do you think? Let me know.