Buddhists believe that "one should establish mindfulness in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations (feelings), objects of consciousness (thoughts and perceptions), and consciousness itself." Modern Western psychology has successfully used the practice of mindfulness - focusing full awareness on the present - to reduce pain, stress and anxiety.
Calm sounds good. And who wouldn't want less pain, stress and anxiety? According to studies, the form of mindfulness with the greatest impact is mindful meditation. A calm, pain-free, stress-free, anxiety-free life for a mere fifteen minutes a day? Sign me up! I've got a ton of self-discipline so fifteen minutes a day should be a cinch. Well... Apparently I don't have as much self-discipline as I'd like to believe. I tried. I mean really tried. But I can't turn my crazy brain off for even one minute (tried that too... see here), let alone fifteen. The commitment to sit and try lasted about a week (I'm being generous).
The way I have been able to incorporate mindfulness into my life with pretty good success is by acknowledging and savoring the good moments that wander into my life on a regular basis. And then remembering to be consciously grateful for them. Those practices have made a huge difference in the quality of my life. In case you skimmed those last three sentences, let me repeat the key parts of them. Acknowledge and savor the good moments. Consciously grateful. Made a HUGE difference. Got it? Good.
So I'm already acknowledging and appreciating the good moments - and I'm fortunate that I've been doing that for a while because it kind of works like a magnet; the more I acknowledge, the more there are. Consequently, I'm in a pretty good place most of the time. But what about the ho-hum parts of my day? Or the not-so-great moments when I fret about what we're going to do now that our house is sold or worry about where we'll be a year from now...
"What, at this moment, is lacking?" The power of this question, posed by a Zen master to his students, is in it's simplicity. At this moment. Not what might be lacking six months from now or what was lacking two years ago. At this moment. Mindfulness in a nutshell. So I started asking myself at various points in my day, "What, at this moment, is lacking?" I'm happy to report the answer is usually, "Absolutely nothing." If something is lacking, the absence is, more often than not, easily remedied. A hat to keep my ears warm, a glass of water to quench my thirst, food because my stomach is growling. I'm fortunate, I get to take for granted a comfortable, safe home and enough money to buy food and clothing. Add to those the right companionship at the right time, and, at any given moment, I'm in good shape.
Simple? Yes. Powerful? Incredibly. The Perfect Question? I'm beginning to think so.