Here is the truth that many of us who live and possibly even thrive in an all-too-often frazzled world may find challenging to recognize or accept: When we stop to pace ourselves and appreciate the present, we are more powerful than we would otherwise be either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. In a society that encourages us to remain so busy that we often tune out our need for serenity and contemplation, the vast majority of us, by default, have become physiologically addicted to the adrenaline rush that comes from near constant noise or busyness. In that chaos, however, we not only fall out of touch with peace but also lose sight of a much bigger picture. We forget that past and present are simply figments of stories we weave in our heads and that the present moment is, in fact, all we really have.
When we first become aware of this, we may feel a flame of resistance flicker from within. Even though we may think we believe in the concept of mindfulness over and above all else, there is at times a strong disconnect between what spiritual teachers, such as Eckhart Tolle, might refer to as “the thinker” and “the knower.” While “the thinker” wants to judge, rationalize, and analyze to seemingly no avail, “the knower” is part of the fabric woven into a deeper layer within us all. It intuitively guides us in all that we encounter along our life’s path. Finally, when we take this on board and resonate with it, our life can drastically alter.
These are the five things that change and happen—for the better—when we step out of our own way and embody mindfulness.
1. We radically accept what is
One of the first things we might notice is that when we stop fantasizing about the future and judging the present as insufficient in comparison, we begin to accept where we are at this very moment. Why is this so empowering, you ask? Well, as soon as we drop any resistance to what is happening to us in the here and now, we either cease to suffer or otherwise hold space to create change from where we stand. Although many of us equate acceptance with passivity, creating resistance gives rise to suffering. When we suffer as a direct result of this, we lose access to “the knower” within. We may then in turn find it more difficult to hear the wise whisper of our own intuition calling us. This voice can only be heard when we embody presence.
2. We feel a stronger ‘life force’ within us
Something else happens when we practice and finally embody mindfulness—something so exquisitely enlivening that we start to feel rejuvenated at the core of our being, as though tiny signs of spring were blossoming from somewhere deep within us. We begin to feel what I call a magnetic “life force.” This “force” is similar to what traditional Chinese culture referred to as “Qi energy,” which circulates throughout the body. When we remain grounded in the present moment, we take back our power by drawing awareness out of our analytic mind and breathe energy into each cell in our body. We notice how we feel and what we see, hear, and smell. Awakened from the soul sleep of disassociation, the present moment feels more real to us than ever before, and we in turn inject more vitality into it. What could possibly feel more invigorating than that?
3. Our cortisol, a key stress hormone, drops
Cortisol, a steroid hormone that is made in the adrenal glands, wreaks havoc on our body in excess. Over time, this can lead to a state of burn-out and have negative impacts on us. When we learn to tune in and be present, however, we signal our body to stop producing so many stress hormones and to simply relax. We can then access what are known as “theta waves” through meditation, which reduces blood pressure, calms our primal fight-or-flight response, and so on.
4. We stop thinking in black-and-white terms
Being in resistance creates suffering. Suffering is the result of pain, and pain is produced from the stories we tell ourselves regarding the events that occur—or have already occurred—in our lives. When we judge a situation as being either “good” or “bad,” we fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking. When we learn to see these events as neutral, we cease to suffer altogether. Moreover, when we bypass that pain, we begin to realize that things are happening for us instead of simply to us. Miraculously, this also lowers our reactivity toward people or situations we would otherwise deem intolerable.
5. Life begins to feel more meaningful
When we practice and embody mindfulness on a more regular basis, life will begin to feel more meaningful to us. In an era where so many of us often find ourselves asking what a meaningful life should look or feel like or whether it is even possible to have one in the first place, mindfulness allows us to access acceptance or a greater feeling of fulfillment in the context of the present moment. Suddenly, we lift the veil of fog from our vision and see either the benefit in what we are doing or in the lack thereof. We also notice how we feel when we do it and can thus more effectively decide whether or not it is within our highest benefit to keep on doing it. Therein lies our power to either put a stop to our suffering or enact positive change. Only then can we live a more authentic life.
Never will we reach contentment by buying into the hustle-and-bustle of modern life. Only when we embody presence can we hold happiness in the palm of our hand. It is time, dear reader, to place your ears closer to your chest and listen to the pleas of your heart—something that may have been whispering to you all along but that you could not hear through all the soul-deafening noise of the outside world. Mindfulness makes all of those five things possible, and in turn, understanding this is the truth that will set us all free.