Spring Cleaning the Attic in My Brain

Getting back into healthy habits and practices I notice that one of the biggest things I need to change is the number of distractions I have in my life. Obvious things to change is how often and for what purpose I use my phone, checking my emails less often, and utilizing airplane mode as a way of life. These few things aren't enough and it is about time I did some research into mindfulness and what it truly means to practice it.

In order to practice mindfulness, I have to define mindfulness. What does it mean to be mindful? Is it to be aware of every little thing around you? Does one have to "empty the mind" to experience mindfulness? Joseph Goldstein describes mindfulness in his article Here, Now, Aware: The Power of Mindfulness as "the quality and power of mind that is deeply aware of what’s happening—without commentary and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea."

This is what I am really looking for. A mindset and skill that I can practice that help me filter out the noise around me and truly focus on what matters. Currently, I live in a world riddled with noise and I don't really have a way or a place to create a bliss station. Some of the noise exists with the purpose of distracting me from my efforts, this is your typical phone notification, habitual social media checks, and emails. Other noises in my world seem to only exist merely to exist.

Right off the bat, when I think of mindfulness and tuning out the noise to focus on what's important I think that there is a whole ritual practice that needs to be done. This is followed by thoughts of a heavy overhaul of how I live my life and approach my day to day activities. According to Mindfulness.org's article, this simply isn't the case.

Mindfulness.org describes mindfulness as being something one doesn't simply add to their day. As human beings, we are designed to experience mindfulness. If you have ever experienced any sort of "flow" or "zone" state, you are experiencing mindfulness. You exist merely in the present. Past and future do not exist and you are focused only on what you are doing at the moment. Mindfulness doesn't ask us to change but rather seeks to cultivate our best possible selves.

Really mindfulness asks us to build a habit of focusing on what truly matters relative to who we are as individuals and our interests. It's something that can easily be practiced daily and, according to a Pacific Standard article, we can feel the positive effects of mindfulness even we have a "low levels of adherence." To describe the act of mindfulness simply:

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.
— Sherlock Holmes

With that being said I am working on making a habit of purposefully consuming media and choosing wisely where I exert my energy. Brainpickings article How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes: Lessons in Mindfulness and Creativity from the Great Detective has some pretty good ideas on how to start being mindful right now. One of the ideas is to willfully become more engaged in the moment.

If I am being completely honest with myself I think I have not been engaging in the moment. Inbetween graduating from school and looking for work in my field I feel that I am stuck living in the past and the present simultaneously. This is one of many recipes for human suffering according to Buddhist teachings. It leads to worry and worrying is a waste of energy that could have been spent in the present, creating the future. My mind attic that was once filled with curiosities became cluttered with worry and anxiety.

I have experienced flow before, where I am fully committed to the moment. The easiest way for me to do this is in my photography. Being mindful and engaged is definitely a skill that I have and am excited to apply it to other aspects of life. It's time to do some spring cleaning in my mind.