Testimony, Mental health and wellbeing

06 December, 2023

Staying in the moment and practising mindfulness

Being in the moment can bring us into a new phase of our lives: a former service user shares their experience.

Paula is a member of our Service User and Supporters Council (SUAS). Here, Paula shares with us what being in the present moment and practicing mindfulness means to her.

The power of now

Being in the moment can bring us into a new phase of our lives where we experience life in a different way. Instead of having a plethora of thoughts that act as background noise, we have only one thought: “do what I am doing NOW”. 

This is the power of now: it opens up all kinds of possibilities. It gives us control of our lives: just be faithful to the present moment and do whatever is in front of you. 

Being in the moment can be thought of in a practical sense. For example, if I need to cross the road, I cross it - but I must look right and left first. Common sense must prevail, but having just one thought instead of the chatter in my head frees me up, and calms me. I am not responsible for the entire state of the world, but I am responsible for my corner of it. 

If you find yourself regretting the past, or fearfully imagining the future, then this is a sign to yourself that you are not in the present moment.  When this happens, it is an indication that you need to stop what you are doing (whenever it’s safe; for example, not while driving your car), and re-group. Take a metaphorical and literal deep breath, and focus. 

Once you have reached being in the moment, try not to let it go. Relax into it. You have reached this moment, so protect it and protract it. You may have fought hard to get to this stage, and, perhaps mainly fought with yourself to get there. 

Mindfulness

Focusing and being in touch with the present moment can be easier if you practice mindfulness. This is why I often advise people to enrol in a mindfulness course, whether it is online or in person: I don’t think you will ever regret it. 

Mindfulness can teach you how to let go of distressing and unwanted thoughts, and enable you to keep letting go. Daily commitment to your mindfulness practice is essential, because you are re-educating your mind. It takes a while to learn the skill of mindfulness, but you will always be glad that you did.

No matter where you travel to, or what job you take on, your mindfulness practice is like a good friend. If you are faithful to it, it will never let you down. 

Daily practice

I’ve heard it said, “the life and death of each one of us has its effects on others”, so my life well-lived helps other people. My good example; my kindness; my ability to live with other people without hurting them: all of these things are very important. I find that practising mindfulness helps bring about all these things, and daily mindfulness practice helps to keep these things working on an ongoing basis. 

When you learn how to practice mindfulness, I recommend you practice it every day, much in the same way that you eat three meals a day. After a while of cooking your meals daily, it becomes an almost automatic progress, about which you do not have to think about as day follows day. In a similar way, build your mindfulness practice into your day. 

Where possible, practice your mindfulness at the same time every day. Where that’s not possible, work around your daily routine to discover where the best time and place is to sit still and focus on it. This is a very important time in your day, so, where possible, do not skip it. Over time, you can become stronger and more confident because of it. Persistently practising mindfulness is like having money in the bank: there may be a day when you need it. 

Practising mindfulness has cause and effect:  the more you practise it, the more you find yourself able to live in the present moment. You cut your work in half, because it takes less and less effort to let go of troublesome thoughts, or the potentially endless chatter that forms the background noise in your head. 

To digress momentarily, I recommend that, if you are persistently bothered by disturbing and unwelcome thoughts, you tell your GP, psychiatrist or a member of your multidisciplinary team. Your doctor will know what to do. They have spent a long time training, so you and I don’t have to; there is a logical path, often times, that a good doctor can take to increase a person’s wellbeing.

Willingness to try

Mindfulness is a skill, like learning to drive. There isn’t one set of rules for everyone else, and one for you: we can all learn to do it, and it is best not to think of ourselves as an exception to the rule, because that would excuse us from trying. Trying is half the battle: just be willing to try.

Mostly teachers of mindfulness are themselves mindfulness practitioners. They are trailblazers. They can teach us to become experts as they themselves are. 

Just be faithful to your daily mindfulness practise. The rewards and benefits far outweigh the effort involved. Becoming freer and happier is a wonderful antidote to the difficult thoughts we once knew. 

Make a decision today that you would like to live in the present moment.  Follow it up by enrolling in a mindfulness course.  If you used to practise mindfulness and no longer do, then get out your books or CDs and reignite that old fire that burned when you sat down to do it.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry: the rewards are huge, for relatively little effort.

Paula

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The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

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