Some tasks, hobbies or sports are able to give us the experience of mindfulness without realizing it or without having to resort to a formal process.
Do you think Evel Knievel was thinking about his laundry while jumping over flaming cars?
Certain situations call for such high levels of focus and attention that there literally is no time for the mind to think.
Jumping flaming cars is a bit extreme for most of us, but it’s a really good example of the true nature of mindfulness in action.
Another “out there” example would be, defusing a bomb. Moving your hands and fingers so deliberately and slowly so as not to trigger the bomb would require such intense focus, you wouldn’t be worried about your mortgage or your taxes.
Now I do have to make a distinction here. The person defusing the bomb still gets to use their mind. They will still be able to have conversations in their head about which is the correct wire to cut or which is the best way to disarm it.
But the activity stops the unnecessary chatter in the mind.
You’re not replaying the traffic incident from earlier. You’re not daydreaming about when you’ll be a millionaire. You’re not questioning why you don’t have your big house yet.
That incessant chatter that serves no purpose other than to remove us from being present. That’s what stops.
What about fear?
Won’t your mind be thinking about fear?
Fear only exists when you’re thinking about the future and what could happen. If you’re truly focused on the task, even fear doesn’t have time to kick in under such focus.
Now I have to be honest. I never met Evel Knievel, but I suspect that when he was performing his stunts, he was so focused on controlling his bike and making sure he hit the dead center of the ramp at exactly the right speed and feeling every twitch of the bike, that he was just 100% present. 100% in the moment.
There may have been fear in the days and weeks before the jump. The mind will naturally try to play out scenarios, but once committed. Once in front of the crowd, it was all presence and focus.
Most athletes that do things we might consider dangerous, all have similar experiences, in that while they’re doing their sport, there exists a stillness and a flow. Concentration so intense that they are not racked by fear.
Turn Every Chore into a Mindfulness Nirvana
Now if only we could learn to focus so strongly during everything we do. All those daily chores. All those things that we’d rather not be doing.
Becoming mindful doing the mundane can turn a chore like “doing dishes” into the most spellbinding experience you’ve had.
There’s no adrenaline rush like you would get from riding a roller coaster, but there’s also no voice in the back of your head telling you how much you hate washing dishes. How tedious it is folding laundry. How annoying it is to have to go shopping. How you’d rather be doing anything other than the tedious task you have to do.
So how does washing dishes become so exciting?
If you focus your full attention on the weight of each dish. The squeak the sponge makes when pressed against the porcelain. The way the light hits the plate and reflects off the other items. The myriad of colors and reflections in the soap bubbles.
When you do mindfulness properly, every aspect of your life becomes the most wonderful thing you’ve ever done.
The thing you’re doing right now is the only thing that you’re aware of.
You are literally existing right now with no memories floating through your mind and no thoughts of the future.
Mindfulness = Liberation from Mind
So, mindfulness liberates you from the burden of your past and the infinite “wanting” generated by dreaming of the future.
Sometimes it’s difficult being mindful in everyday life, so adding a little spice like Evil Kneival did can help you naturally become mindful.
Try new foods and focus on the tastes and textures.
Try new places. Go exploring somewhere you’ve never been before. Walk down different streets.
Listen to a different radio station. Go and see a movie that might not normally appeal to you.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, go rock climbing, mountain biking or any number of outdoor activities that force you to pay attention or pay the price (hospital bill).
Variety is the spice of life. But really, variety is the way to become naturally mindful without deliberately practicing mindfulness.
So while meditation removes a lot of the physical distractions from your environment so you can train the mind to focus on one repetitive task and keep bringing it back whenever it wanders. (check out the Meditation Boot Camp for a complete guide to meditation)
Mindfulness brings that same focus but to the everyday tasks we do.
Deep meditation stops, or at least limits, the amount of mind chatter we are exposed to. Mindfulness does the same but without needing to dedicate time or space.
Make Mindfulness a Game
You can turn mindfulness into a game. The next time you are forced to do something you really don’t enjoy. Just stop for a second and listen to your mind telling you how much you hate it and how you’d rather be doing something else.
Acknowledge that it’s your mind telling you that. Now go back to the task and pay really close attention to the sounds, smells, tactile sensations of the task.
Focus on them very closely. When you think you’re really focused on a sensation, search even deeper for the more subtle sensations.
Move your awareness around and become aware of your environment, your own body. Literally every aspect of the task.
If you stay super focused, you may also become aware that your mind stopped telling you how much the task sucks.
Enjoy NOT Wanting
You may also find that you found a rising joy in observing the sensations.
But in reality, what you really “enjoyed” and what caused that feeling of rising joy was the break from your mind “wanting” things to be different.
You were so absorbed in the present moment that you simply allowed everything to be exactly as it is. No day dreaming of your previous vacation, not thinking of the dinner date you have planned. Just purely enjoying the moment.
Mindfulness does take a while to master. Possibly several lifetimes. But my advice is, if you’re finding it difficult to focus, go out and buy yourself a motorbike and some leathers and plan to jump some flaming cars this weekend.
I guarantee you won’t have any problems stopping your mind from chattering as you’re speeding up the ramp 🙂
Joking of course. Please don’t take me literally and go out an buy a motorbike to jump flaming cars with.