Imagine that you are walking along on a cloudy summer day. Maybe you’re on your way to work, to pick up the kids, or maybe you’re just wandering. I would be willing to bet that your thoughts are focused on just about everything except the current step, breeze, or smell that makes up the present moment. This is, after all, what brains do. Perhaps you’re reliving the argument you had with a coworker or partner earlier that day, or maybe you have a big project due at work or school, or maybe you’re planning the rest of your day. Maybe your thoughts are muddled like the water in a creek bed after being stirred up and the only discernible content is a vague and murky emotion.
I don’t care how well adjusted you are, we can all relate to just such a walk. Well now suppose that as you place your right foot down for your next step the sun suddenly bursts through the cloud cover and envelops you with its warm and bright light. All of a sudden your thoughts and emotions skitter to a halt as your body takes over. The sensation of warmth that caresses your skin silences your mind, clears the murky water, and grounds you steadfastly in the present moment. It is as if eternity stretches out in this instant because all thought has died and no one is watching the clock anymore.
This is mindfulness. It can happen during physical activity, artistic endeavor, while gazing at your child, or any of the innumerable activities that so capture our mind or our body’s attention that thought and emotion fade away and the present moment stands forth in its quiet essence.