Our minds play a crucial role in our psychological, mental, and physical well-being. One of the most important ways to calm our minds is to be present in the here and now. This is called mindfulness. It’s also one way to tap into the messages of the heart and soul. Being mindful also entails a sense of awareness and interconnectedness between our inner and outer worlds. If we’re awake and alert, we can more easily receive the messages from within, while still receiving messages from the universe.
Writer Natalie Goldberg, in her book The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, reminds us of the importance of mindfulness, whether we’re working, doing errands or dealing with interpersonal relationships. Mindfulness means being non-judgmental, patient, accepting, trusting, maintaining a beginner’s mind, and letting go.
When considering how to quiet your mind, sit for a minute and think about what calms you, and contemplate how to incorporate those things into your daily life. Even just a few minutes of meditation or mindful breathing can bring you into the present moment. My day always begins with meditation, sometimes even before I have my coffee. Frequently, I also do a shorter meditation later in the afternoon to give me a boost of energy.
Goldberg, during her Zen writing retreats, reminds her students to anchor the mind to the breath by using paper and pen to write. Doing so helps them stay in the moment, as does the mantra, “Sit. Walk. Write,” which she calls the “true secret.” This mantra can release creativity, if the doors are swung open wide enough.
You may find that if you’re in touch with your inner self, you’ll more easily be able to understand the external world, thus bringing about the interconnection of your inner and outer realms.
But even though the mind is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes get in the way of creativity and getting things accomplished. The voice in our heads can get in the way of what our hearts want to say, and sometimes it can turn to the dark part of ourselves. This voice can point to feelings of fear, guilt, anger, sadness, envy and resentment, instead of a lightness of being.
The ego has the ability to create false thoughts, which is the inner chatter we hear most often. In fact, it is the voice in our heads to which we sometimes say, “shut up.” Otherwise, we can become overwhelmed by these thoughts and lose touch with reality. This is one reason why, during meditation, it’s wise to let thoughts come and go, rather than becoming obsessed by them or focusing on any one in particular.
If you focus too intensely on your thoughts, it’s more likely that you’ll lose touch with the here and now. Some years ago when visiting Maui, I attended a retreat led by Ram Dass, one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the past few decades. Even though he’d had a stroke, he was still able to relay his very important message of “be here now,” the simplest and best advice for being mindful. His book Be Here Now was like a bible for many hippies like myself in the 1960s.
Those who live in the present moment often come across as being more grounded. As Ram Dass said, “When you meet a being who is centered, you always know it. You always feel a kind of calm, emanation. It always touches you in that place where you feel calm.” The more we bring our focus into the present moment, the more we experience the bliss and joy of that moment, as well as our true essence.
Consider a journaling practice to keep you in the present moment. Practice body intelligence: Write down what you’re seeing, sensing, hearing or intuiting at this moment. What is your body feeling? Is there discomfort? What pops into your mind? Perhaps do this on a daily basis as a way to remain in the here and now.