Opinion: Dealing with the mental to-do list that never completes
By Stephen Archer
Mindfulness is an excellent way of improving our health and wellbeing. It's a participatory practice, meaning we learn to get better at participating in presence, in life.
This may sound simple, but a lot of the time we’re participating in the contents of our minds, the virtual reality show that’s happening in our heads. But that show may have very little to do with what’s actually going on.
No wonder that a lot of us are struggling with the hyperactive cognitive mind. We spend hours every day giving our attention to digital technology and it’s very stimulating. But if our use of this technology gets out of balance, so do we.
This results in a mind that’s all over the place, stress, negative moods, the feeling of always living my life a few moments ahead of where I really am; the mental to-do list that never completes.
Mindfulness is based on the understanding that the mind is a natural environment. It’s easy to get that nature is having its way with our bodies, now apply that to awareness, the natural awake state you’re experiencing right now if you’re reading this. We have the mind of nature and it has all the qualities of any natural environment – beauty, diversity, vitality, order and wildness. To practice mindfulness means to directly orientate ourselves to these qualities through feeling and attention. It’s a workout, particularly in the beginning, because the mind wanders, easily!
It’s helpful to focus on something natural, like our body and breathing. Slowly the mind starts to settle, and not because we’re forcing it, but because balance and clarity are inherent. A sense of peace and ease, even in the midst of our active lives starts to be felt. This is very sweet and liberating. In my work I continuously see how truly empowering it is for anyone to get a taste of the power of mindfulness, to start enjoying the natural environment of awareness itself, and become increasingly sensitive to the requirements of that environment.