Back in the 70’s, kids used to play a game called Punch Buggy. The objective was to spot a Volkswagen Beetle before your opponent did. If you did, you delivered one body punch while you declared “Punch Buggy,” and named its’ colour. If you didn’t spot it first, you would receive a jab.
To be good at the game, I had to pay attention to what I was paying attention to.
I could not afford to be distracted by the model, and colour of each passing car; nor the landscape; the radio; my mother swatting at us; while she told us that hitting people was wrong; my full bladder; or the body language of my brother, which warned of his incoming wallop. I had to be aware of everything going on in my environment while remaining focused on my goal of seeing the VW first.
Our minds wander all the time. We are easily distracted by the day to day thoughts of our lives, our children, our careers, our homes, etc. Our Human-ness regurgitates thoughts of guilt and shame from our past. We think anxious thoughts about the next moment, next day, or next week. We even have thoughts about our thoughts!
We can become over stimulated, overwhelmed and over stressed by our own thoughts. This stress, warns that we are out of balance.
Dis-ease results from the state of chronic imbalance.
The good news is that mindfulness helps. We develop this skill simply by paying attention to what we are paying attention to.
It is much like the game of Punch Buggy. When we are mindful, we focus our attention on one thing at a time, while the noise of our life occurs all around us. We become the Observer. We acknowledge our thoughts, but we don’t participate or react to them, unnecessarily.
With practise, we can filter and prioritize our thoughts. We don’t judge our self for thinking them. We don’t attach an emotional charge to them. We accept that they naturally occur.
This practise elicits a response from our more evolved Being-ness. It evokes our intelligence instead of our stressed-out emotional reaction. We communicate better, our relationships improve, and we learn to manage conflict more effectively. We develop an understanding that we are choosing which thoughts we want to focus on, and our reaction to them. We learn to self-regulate with compassion and empathy.
Practise mindfulness by playing this game with yourself. Every time that you notice a clock where the numbers repeat; such as 10:10 or 2:22, stop for one minute to be mindful. Pay attention only to what you choose to pay attention to.
It doesn’t matter what you do for the minute. Just be aware of your thoughts and the noise of your environment while focusing on one specific thing. Eat mindfully. Whistle mindfully. Close your eyes and breathe mindfully. Focus on your digestion, the sensations of the shoes on your feet, or one particular sound, for one full minute.
When a distracting thought occurs, acknowledge it and decide to think about it at a later time if needed. Then calmly return your focus to your mindfulness task. No emotions, no judgement, just passing thoughts.
Choose what thoughts you focus on. You are in control.
Compassionately change the thoughts that do not serve you.
Patiently practise until you master them.