Being Present With Mental Noting
Being Lost In Thought
When it comes to your mind, there's only two modes that you can ever be in.
You're either paying attention, or you're lost in thought.
And if you're like most people, you'll probably find that you're lost in thought a lot. I know I am.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with thinking. It's pretty essential, right? We wouldn't be able to get much done without it.
But the unfortunate consequence of being lost in thought to the extent that we is, the more time we spend there, the more time we spend ruminating about what's already gone (the past).
Imagining and anticipating that which is yet to come (the future)
And the less time we spend being present; being available for what's actually happening right here and now.
Which of course is the only time and place when our lives can actually happen.
Awareness of Thought
It's really important that we have ways of encouraging the mind to come back to being present more often.
Because a mind that's present tends to be happier and calmer.
And a mind that stays lost in thought tends to stay on this emotional rollercoaster of 'things' that, of course, in the moment seem quite real, but really aren't.
Not in the moment when we're thinking about them.
A useful way of learning to come back to the present more often is to start to become aware of when our mind does begin to wander into the past and the future.
Because it happens so automatically. Most of the time we're lost in thought and we don't even know that we're lost in thought.
It's not about trying to stop ourselves from thinking, it's about building that muscle of awareness to know when we are thinking.
Quite possibly, the simplest mindfulness exercise that we can pull upon to help build this awareness of thought is using a technique called 'Mental Noting'.
All you have to do is take one or two minutes to get curious about what your mind is up.
Then, use the notes of past, present, or future to anchor your awareness into the activity of your mind.
If there's a thought about something that you've got planned for later, you just calmly, without judgement, say to yourself, 'future'.
If you might remember something that you did this morning, you just say, 'past'.
If you notice your attention is on something that's actually happening now, maybe a sensation in the body or something you can see in front of you, you just note, 'present'.
Over the course of a minute or a couple of minutes, you'll notice that there's a lot that can happen in your mind in that time.
Mental Noting On The Go
The reason why I love this exercise is because you can do it on the go.
It's a great thing to do during those transitionary moments when you're moving from one task to the next.
Maybe when walking down a corridor at work on the way to a meeting.
Again, it's not about stopping thinking.
It's about becoming aware of when we are thinking.
With that awareness comes the choice of where you want to anchor our attention in that moment.
It takes a bit of practice, but as with all things mindful, it's definitely worth the practice.
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