By Tony and Missy Caldwell
Most of us are much more familiar with mind fullness, or fullness of mind, than with mindfulness. Today we experience four times the environmental stressors that our grandparents faced. Our attention is often divided between televisions, computers, smartphones, advertising and 24-hour news channels. We are psychologically and emotionally battered and fried by all of these factors on a daily basis. Our brains suffer from overconsumption of this mental junk food, high in calories but low in nutrition.
But, there is so much more to our lives when there is so much less in our lives. This “something more” is awareness, presence: integration. When we’re not all here, we’re not “all there.” Mindfulness is about being all here—being here now.
Less really is more. The less overloaded we are, the more we are our true selves. So when our mental cup runneth over we must pause. Our brains are not unlike computers. By the time we become adults we have downloaded so much information. We have been programmed and updated so many times.
The theme of mindfulness is return. To return to essence, to the breath, to the moment, to oneself, to a reality not completely defined by external circumstance, to return to the fundamentals, to who and what really matters—to return home.
Mindfulness, in some ways, is the opposite of mindlessness. Mindlessness is the lack of forethought, thought and afterthought. And, after all, it’s the thought that counts. Right?
The holidays can bring so much joy, but if we are in a “holidaze,” we will miss it. The holidays can also bring pain for many of us like the family members that are gone, the ones that we don’t connect with, the financial strain, the lack of time, the expectations, the guilt, the grief and the hurried pace. If we weren’t so busy, we might really suffer. But mindfulness asks us to be with all of that, too—to give it space, to honor it, to take good care of it; but, to also not over-identify with it. We are not the stuff that we purchase. And, we are not the stuff that we think. We are the observer of the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.
This Thanksgiving, if you find yourself “stuffing” your feelings, consider what it is you are truly hungry for. If you have to get lit like a Christmas tree in order to make a joyful noise, maybe consider that, this year, you don’t. Observe yourself attaching to what you want or how you want things to be. And begin rewriting your Christmas story.
It is so easy to get our loved ones the gifts that they want and watch them open it and not even be fully present in the room, make eye contact and really connect. But what our loved ones most need is not our presents, but our presence. The best gift we can give one another is ourselves, but the giving of our undivided attention requires that we become our undivided selves. The best present that we can give anyone is our presence.
This year, when you sing “I’ll be home for Christmas,” make sure that is a true statement.