To live in the moment means nothing more than to bring all of our attention to each second as we’re experiencing it. Whilst it sounds so simple, you’d be surprised at how little we do this. If you pay close attention to your thoughts (try doing it right now) you’ll notice that the majority of things you’re thinking about either concern something that’s already happened or something that hasn’t happened yet. I’m referring especially to millennials! We’re a breed of worriers, if your mind is without stimulus for long enough (e.g your phone, the T.V or someone to talk to) - No distractions so your mind has time to wonder then I can guarantee within a couple of minutes, you’ll find something to worry about or a memory to replay. This is because we find it so impossible to just exist within a moment. We need constant stimulus, this keeps our minds working non stop and is the reason for the ridiculously high levels of stress and anxiety that the majority of humans go through in their lifetime. Mindfulness is the simple practice of bringing our minds back to the now so that we can learn to experience each second for what it is without past and future thoughts clouding our minds constantly.
For example, think about the last time you had to walk somewhere on your own, you probably don’t remember what you thought about during that walk, you probably spent most of the time on your phone, listening to music, thinking about your destination or over thinking in general. When do you ever find yourself walking somewhere and taking in your surroundings, noticing the birds or the trees or the sky, you probably have briefly noticed these elements in passing, but when do you ever find yourself focusing only on this. Focusing on those birds, noticing how the trees move, seeing the clouds drift over the sky. Embracing the universe and everything it’s offering you in every place and second you find yourself living in is what’s known as mindfulness. It doesn’t have to be external, it’s equally about elements much closer to home such as feeling the breath in your lungs, feeling your heartbeat, paying attention to the hum of your body functioning, noticing each sensation you’re currently experiencing whether it’s your feet on the floor or your skin against the sun and your clothes. If we dedicate our thoughts to present moments rather than past or future then we can learn to relax our minds.
It’s essentially an on-the-go version of meditation but rather than tuning solely into your breathing, you’re tuning into your actions and the moving world around you.
I would say T.V and phones are the biggest culprits of destroying our ability to live in the moment, its a quick fix to stimulate us and avoid the boredom and anxiety of being left alone with our dreaded thoughts. So instead of the task of arranging our minds and bringing ourselves to a constant state of mental peace, we distract ourselves from it constantly and decide to deal with all our stresses later.
A good step toward putting mindfulness in to play is to stop checking your phone!!! We’re all guilty of taking our phones everywhere with us, even just from room to room with the excuse that we might miss something. Checking your phone and putting on the T.V is the perfect guilt-free way to avoid dealing with our problems. Whenever we find a free second and we’re without a distraction, instead of letting our thoughts pour in, we drown them out by scrolling through the online world. You may have missed a chance to get to know your actual friends but at least you know Kylie Jenners had a baby, you may have missed an opportunity to overcome a mental obstacle but at least you’ve seen photos of your friend having a wicked time at Nandos. Start doing things without your phone, this way you’ll find it easier to fully immerse yourself in whatever activity you’re doing and whoever you’re with because it’ll become the sole source of your stimulus.
It hit me how bad it was about 2 years ago when I lost my phone, at first it felt like an actual break up, I was actually mourning the loss of my phone and my lack of connection to social media, all I could think about was when I could get another one so I could resume normality. It ended up that in all I was without a phone for 3 months, in that time I realised that it actually was physically possible to enjoy moments to myself and be in a pretty place without my first thought being to photograph it. My appreciation turned into my appreciation instead of basing scenarios on their online aesthetic. It’s liberating to live for yourself and it’s horrifying when you see what a tiny portion of our day we spend actually doing this. Life isn’t all plain white walls, marble counters and Aden filters, but it’s easy to forget this when it’s the only portion we see of each others lives over the Internet. We begin chasing the perfection that we see online only to be faced with the harsh reality that patchy fake tan, dirt and mess actually exists in everyones day-to-day life as opposed to our squeaky clean online ‘aesthetic’.
Me and a few of my friends tried this thing where we put all of our phones face down in the middle of table and the first one of us to try to check our phone would pay for the drinks. We couldn’t believe how much we didn’t actually know about each other before we had a proper conversation with no one allowed a phone. It’s amazing how much more interesting everyone becomes when you have their full attention. It’s awful how we seem to give an equal share of ourselves to the online world as we do to the actual world and the people in it.
It begins from the second we wake up, we enter the online world of seeking social acceptance and justification for how we’re spending our day. The aesthetic of looking like you’re a free spirit who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks is ironically the hardest one to keep-up with, all the candid shots of you immersing yourself so deeply in these ‘activities’ that you didn’t even notice the photo being taken, but oh actually take it again because you don’t look candid enough there or you don’t look like you’re having enough fun there… It’s almost like our online persona is our Sims existence where we level up and succeed, in reality nothing has changed for us but we’ve created and new and better online world to immerse ourselves in. Mindfulness teaches us to level up in the real world and how to find satisfaction from the experience itself as opposed to the Instagram-filtered version of what we post online.
As I mentioned earlier, the idea of being without a phone is genuinely worrying, however we aren’t scared of not having a phone, we’re scared of what comes after. What if we see something really cool that goes to waste because no one else will know you’ve seen it.. What if you feel the perfect lighting and you have no way to take photos of yourself? It’s the very concept that nothing we experience exists until you’ve gained secondary gratification from it (which is something I’ve mentioned in previous posts.) With a lack of phone we’re forced to be real humans, a concept that we’re not familiar with anymore. Without that justification to fall back on of the online world we’ve created for ourselves, we’re left with just our reality. Which is something we’re able to avoid for the most part of the day. Who you are when stripped of every possession is the reality of who you are. The core of a being is who they are when left with nothing, we rarely (if ever) find ourselves in this state, so unfortunately when left with a lack of social status, who we actually are can feel quite small.
By using Mindfulness practice, we are bringing our minds into every action, we are creating a memory and an experience with every second that passes rather than being in a state of disinterest toward anything that isn’t worth posting online. We need to realise that even the moments spend in places that you deem not your aesthetic, are also moments of your life that are passing that you’ll never get back, to begin to enjoy the concept of being alive rather than the idea of seeking daily perfection is to truly live.
Black Mirror S3 E1: Nosedive
- Brooke Berry