Exploring Mindful Awareness in Daily Life
Here’s a story about two very different journeys, each taken by the same person on the same trail. The outer conditions are virtually the same in each story. The real difference in each journey occurs within the attitude and the attentional focus of the person in question.
There’s something instructive in this story that speaks to the importance of cultivating presence in our lives, and about the gifts that developing a greater awareness can bring us in our lives.
Listen to the podcast, or read the full story below…
Part One: The “Fast-Forward” Mindset
Let’s imagine person number one. Or, “personality-awareness-expression number one”… this is a person with a certain agenda, and that agenda is driving their behavior and their awareness. It’s impacting how they experience the world around them, and the quality of that experience.
So, this person has woken up in a hurry. They hear their alarm and they jump up out of bed. Maybe they jump in the shower, then grab some coffee, a quick something to eat, and run out the door.
They’re hurrying because they’ve got to get to work, or they have to drop the kids off somewhere, whatever it is, but they’re in a rush and they basically just grab everything they need and run.
They can barely hold everything as they get out the door – they’ve got the coffee mug in one hand, a backpack or whatever they’re bringing with them, a jacket, all their stuff.
They run out the door in a hurry and jump right in the car. Quickly, they start the engine and then zip off. Their primary thought? Where do I need to go. What do I need to do. Just getting it done…
So that’s experience number one, and maybe you are reading this, and perhaps some of you are thinking, “Wow, that sounds like my typical morning right there!”
I know I’ve certainly had plenty of days like that, and probably many of us have and do. Now the question is, on the way from the door to the car or even before that…
What did that person notice about the world around them?
Note that in the story, a lot of the attention was particularly directed to the future: What do I have to do next? What are the five other things I have to do this morning? What do I have to grab and bring with me? And then, what am I facing in this next step of my morning?
Basically, it’s all about getting ready for the morning. Of course, it’s important to be able to meet what’s coming towards us efficiently and on time, and to have the things we need; these are important skills for thriving in today’s world.
But, there can be a cost with this approach. The cost appears in the quality of our interface with the world around us. When we’re caught in the mind state of “I need to get somewhere fast,”and this becomes our day-to-day mode of operation, we can miss a lot of what’s around us. What’s more, we might also miss some of the more subtle qualities that are moving inside of us, overlooking our feelings about what’s going on in our inner world.
Still, we have things we need to tend to. So the quality of awareness may get shunted aside, so that we can get towards our goal quickly. Sometimes, maybe you just have to do that. Maybe there doesn’t appear to be another option. Still, we can ask:
How much room for awareness is there, even in a busy moment like that?
Are there some simple things we can do to slow down and nourish our awareness?
Maybe we can’t slow down our outward motion, because we have to move fast to keep on track. We have to get things done fast, but:
Can we find some more spacious and aware inner space in the midst of the action? And, what would that do to our morning or to our day if we were able to pull that off?
Part Two: Same Person, New Mindset
Now, let me paint a picture of person number two. Let’s imagine this is actually the same person as before, now with a different mindset. This new inner attitude is affecting their behavior and their experience.
Let’s say this person has spent some time with a nature mentor, and they have adopted some routines of awareness that are supporting their mindfulness and presence. So now we observe the story of person number two. We might also think of this as the story of “personality-awareness expression number two” (if we think of personality expression as inclusive of a set of awareness routines embedded in one’s experience).
So now it’s the same person from before, but on a different day – maybe six months later. They still have to get to where they’re going, and their morning routine hasn’t overly changed that much. They still have the same responsibilities, the same duties to fulfill, and the need to get somewhere on time. They have a lot of things to get ready.
Now, though, this person has cultivated some mindfulness practices. So that alarm still goes off in the morning, but now when they get up, instead of jumping right into the shower, they take a moment to welcome and greet the day. They take a few deep breaths and just sense their body. Maybe they’ll stretch for a minute, wake themselves up a little, and really feel their body for a moment. Maybe they even pause and take a moment of gratitude, just to think about the opportunities of the day that are coming up – even just for a minute. Maybe while they’re in the shower, they’re just thinking “Wow, what am I grateful for today that I get to do today? What might I get to learn and grow into today?”
So already, through just a few subtle awareness changes, the mindset is shifting. There’s a positive energy building, and an outlook for meeting the day that brings optimism with it. Then, when they are taking that first sip of coffee, they take a moment, perhaps even a second, to savor the taste of that coffee, to fully to smell the aroma. Or, to take that first bite of food very mindfully. Even if there’s not time to really slowly eat the meal, even just taking that first bite with mindfulness can change the impact of that meal, to bring that much more nourishment and engagement in what’s happening there.
Then, they gather everything up that’s needed for the day. In the midst of that gathering and action, they are now just being fully aware of the body, being aware of those around them, and having the sensations of it all. Now comes the realization that in the midst of busyness, one can still be relaxed.
So, this person is experiencing a sense of peaceful action, all within the same time frame and general routine that they had six months earlier, with only slight modifications. Then there’s another little moment of opportunity: in opening the front door to leave home, they pause as that door opens, standing just for a moment on the front porch. In the transition out the door, they take a moment to extend the awareness out, intentionally noticing what’s outside the door – is there a robin on the lawn, a squirrel nearby in a tree, what do the clouds look like today? They feel the breeze, sense the humidity or the dryness in the air. They take a smell of the the scents on the wind, feel the breeze on the skin. Then, they walk to the car and really feel each footstep as a meditation, even if it’s just 10 steps.
Just pausing at the doorstep and doing something like that, which can literally take 10 seconds, can now open a doorway to a whole other level of connection. Now your yard, your neighborhood, and your body become allies for awakening into a more connected, grounded awareness.
This kind of simple awareness routine sets you up to be a bit more relaxed and present for whatever you’re headed to next.
So, those are two very different experiences, and two very different walks down the same exact “trail” for the same person, but with different approaches in their mindset.
This is a simple example of an awareness practice we can all cultivate.
I’ve found that in the mentoring journey, some of the most powerful changes and transformations occur when we find simple, small ways to bring moments of awareness into our daily life.
It’s not necessarily about disappearing into the wilderness for a week, although that’s nice. It’s great to do that when we can, and it’s important to to get that kind of recharge time away from the demands of daily life. Really, though, these little small transformations that are so potent come from taking an extra 10 or 30 seconds or a minute at different points in your day that vary your routine.
Find small, consistent ways to bring little pulses of connection into your senses, into your gratitude, and into your awareness.
I invite you to consider and ask:
What can you do in this week, just as one little positive disruption to your routine, to bring in that greater awareness and mindfulness to your experience?
Have fun—happy connecting!