One thing parents always say about their children is “They grow up so quick. I don’t know where the time goes.” Being a mother or father takes up so much time and energy, so that life frequently feel like a helter skelter ride. Increasingly, over the last few years politicians have wanted to be support “hard working families”. Busyness is assumed to be an admirable and even desirable trait. Of course it doesn’t have to be children, there are many other things that can fill your hours and minutes to the brim and parents certainly don’t have the monopoly on busy lives. But whatever the reason, it is scary when you realise John Lennon’s observation “Life is what happens to other people when you are busy making plans.” applies to you.
That’s why mindfulness is seen as such an attractive (non)activity: the chance to STOP for even a second has become a luxury for many. We know life is passing us by and we’d like to do two things:
1) Notice what is happening and what we are feeling, thinking and doing.
2) Question whether we are feeling, thinking and doing the right things.
But that is also why mindfulness on its own is not the whole answer. It helps us with the first point; to be aware of ourselves and our relationship with our surroundings. But if we left it there it could become just another selfish pursuit, something to make us feel better about ourselves. While that is not a bad thing at all, if it doesn’t lead to any change in our lives mindfulness becomes a huge missed opportunity. When we stop and become aware of what we are thinking and how we are reacting, we can start to change those habits by getting less and less involved in the ingrained patterns our thoughts normally follow. The reason we don’t notice the time going by is we spend so much of it repeating and rerunning old routine ideas and responses; we are hooked into these mental patterns and so too much of our life is spent numbed to our environment and experiences. We aren’t aware of all that is passing us by moment by moment. Mindfulness helps us correct this. Practicing it will help us know better where the time is going and also how we can use it better for ourselves and for others.