Friday Musings: Mindfulness

I’ve been reading a lot of Leo Babauta at recently. He writes a lot about forming habits and bringing peace and simplicity to your life. One topic in particular that’s really interested my is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is essentially the practice of focusing on and enjoying the present moment. It’s being able to release the thoughts and worries that constantly creep into our mind and instead focus only on your current task or current state.

I immediately connected to the idea of mindfulness to because it’s something I don’t feel I’m very good at. My mind is constantly wandering off in different directions, from thinking about what to do next here at my blog, to something that happened earlier in the day at work, to what the heck are my New England Patriots going to do when Tom Brady retires? Random thoughts enter my mind all the time, making my focus on the present amazingly sketchy. The idea of slowing that down and learning to appreciate the present moment was very appealing.

There are many potential applications of mindfulness, and you can learn about a lot of them at Leo’s site. But recently I’ve been trying to apply it to one specific aspect of my life: family time.

Having a regular day job means that I have limited time with my wife and son, mostly at night and on weekends. I talk a lot on here about keeping your finances automated and simple so that you have time to focus on the things you really care about, which for me is primarily time with my family. Well, I realized recently that I’ve been talking the talk, but not always walking the walk. Although I’m physically present during those times with my family, my mind is often elsewhere. Especially since starting this blog earlier this year, adding one more thing to my life, I’ve found my mind wandering more and more.

That’s a trend I want to reverse, and Leo’s teachings on mindfulness have helped me start practicing being in the moment. When I’m with my son, I want to focus only on him. What’s he doing? How is he figuring things out? How do I teach him things? How do I make him laugh? When I’m with my wife, I want my attention on our conversation. I want to be totally absorbed in our relationship, in our interaction. Our time together is limited so I want to make it worthwhile. That means focusing my energy on those interactions rather than diluting them with random wandering thoughts.

I have to admit, it hasn’t been easy. It’s not for a lack of desire. It’s just that I’m so used to letting my mind wander that it takes real work to keep it focused. But it’s important to me, so I’m sticking with it and trying to get better one moment at a time. When I’m with my family and I find myself thinking about something else, I try to simply recognize the thought and bring myself back to the present moment. No guilt. No shame. Just recognition and the effort to bring my focus back where I want it to be.

This kind of self-awareness is new for me, but I really like the direction it’s heading.

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4 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • holly April 12, 2013

    I can relate to the part about your mind being elsewhere when you’re with the kids. We both work full time, freelance write, and blog (obviously). Anyway, we implemented a no electronics policy when the kids are awake and that has helped some. Then after they go to bed at 8 we can resume working. Like I said, it doesn’t always work but it helps!

  • Matt Becker April 12, 2013

    I like the idea of a no electronics policy. I’m going to have to bring that one up with my wife. Wouldn’t be easy to get used to but probably worth the effort. Thanks for the idea!

  • Cash Cow Couple April 12, 2013

    I love zenhabits. Great site. I’m definitely with you on this post. Sometimes being busy and blogging interferes with the quality time I want to have with my wife.

  • Matt Becker April 12, 2013

    I’ve learned a ton since I found zenhabits. Much different than the things I normally read. We’re all busy but I love the idea of slowing down and just appreciating where we are. Thanks for the comment!

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