By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
The practice of mindfulness began with the oldest philosophies, yet in a world inundated with distractions and desires it is more necessary than ever.
Everything can be done in a state of mindful focus and intentionality. I am reminded of the “Zen art of sweeping the parking lot” as expressed by a teenage employee who was gently mocking the advice of his boss, the owner of the small convenience store at the end of my road who believed that a well-maintained parking lot is a beautiful thing, achieved with the utmost care and purposefulness. When engaged in what I consider the best things in life: walking, dancing, baking, cleaning, cooking, swimming, I am filled with the joy of the activity, living fully and happily in the moment.
A recent study attempts to measure the impact of mindfulness on happiness, applying technology in an ingenious way while gleaning an astounding amount of insight thanks to the possibility of enormous research participation through an application feeding the findings to the TrackYourHappiness.org project. A discussion of the discoveries can be found in the TedTalk by Matt Killingsworth.
The results yield fascinating insights, particularly the significant correlation between mindfulness and happiness, determined through feelings of well-being experienced when people are truly present and engaged in the current moment and activity, whatever that may be.
Another extremely encouraging result is that among all the activities human engage in, the one activity that engages us the most, commanding 90% presence in the moment, is having sex. I find this data incredibly reassuring since it provides positive proof of the powerful impact acts of love wield on our imagination, in case the plethora of novels, paintings, songs, and poems weren’t proof enough.
I recall a related definition of happiness from the movie Shadowlands
Jack: Now I don’t want to be somewhere else anymore. Not waiting for anything new to happen. Not looking around the next corner, not the next hill. Here now. That’s enough.
Joy: That’s your kind of happy, isn’t it?
Jack: Yes. Yes it is.
Intentional, intense, and sustained attention can be built also a reliable life skill. Often challenged by the many diversions of modern life, concentration must be established and maintained to accomplishing anything. Thus, the practice of mindfulness and development of focus becomes more crucial; I remain firm in my position that smart phone dependency undermines daily productivity and happiness, among other things. No matter what we are in the midst of, more contentment emerges through finding meaning in each moment.
Recently, my friend Kris created a mindfulness project for his art students, inviting a yoga instructor to expand his students’ understanding and inform their work. He’s the kind of art teacher who ensures learners go on to lead meaningful, creative lives.
As for engaging in moments that are less wonderful, it seems that accepting the difficult days as they are might be the best strategy, too. We must find the strength to live through things. Here, again, Kris offers wise counsel, including accepting the aches which accompany life, “pain now or pain later,” is his sage advice.
Whenever possible, we must seek to live fully and deeply in each moment. Indeed, being fully present is an extraordinary act of choice, one upon which our happiness may even depend.