A very dear friend posed this question on Facebook yesterday. She is going through some significant life challenges at the moment and was asking for positive responses from her friendship group. My response was to try to describe my own approach to the question:
"I too find it a challenge. Even as I was driving to work this early this morning, a sudden thought came into my head about end of life and dying. Luckily, I was stuck in a traffic jam at the time and I did a 3 minute mindfulness exercise and it helped. It helped in clearing the negative, frightful thoughts out of my head. I focused on my breathing and forced myself to relax. I followed it up with looking out of the window and consciously looking at the sun coming up; the plants on the side of the road and just feeling how wonderful it was to be alive.
Every day I strive to live in the moments that life generates, without trying to plan outcomes. I seek out life moments in all that happens. Hope this helps. Kind thoughts to you on this beautiful Tuesday."
I went and checked what were some of the key attributes of Mindfulness and how it can help you to focus on the "Being" of Life, rather than the "Doing" of Life. The list below is a starting point that I've collected together:
Focus on the Present Moment
When your thoughts get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, pause and consciously bring your thoughts back to the present moment. Even do a 3 minute breathing exercise. Being fully present, You are aware of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What do you feel in your body? What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, doing - right now?
Openness to the Current Experience
Welcome with open curiosity, any thoughts and feelings that occur, knowing they are thoughts of that moment and the next moments thoughts can be and are quite often, different. On average we have between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, this means between 35 and 48 thoughts per minute. So you are literally living thought by thought by thought. Your thoughts and approach to a particular activity will change over time and possibly every time.
Do not categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or evil, happy or sad, positive or negative. Don't try to change them, or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect you from danger or open you to love. You watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind. As you recognise this, try extending this other other people, other groups, cultures, societies and the world in general.
Accept the reality of life and what is happening in this moment. You can no change reality, it exists. You can only change yourself; your approach and thoughts and feelings. Let it be as it is. Try not to judge or feel a victim to the circumstances.
Connected to the World
I used this, this morning when I had a "moment". Try to feel that you are connected to all living things and are a part of a larger whole. After all, a flower flowers; a bee buzz's; the sun shines. What more can you wish for?
Develop a mind that is aware of your own daily experiences, thoughts, feelings and begin to notice your automatic reaction to events. The Pause, Reflect and Act method really helps to tune yourself in. Learn to stop the automatic reaction. That is the start of Mindfulness for me.
I will leave you with this quote from Eckhart Tolle:
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose