I’ve been thinking about mindfulness quite a lot these past years. Ironic, I know. Mostly about all the things that steal our attention away from the present moment. And the worst of these distractions are not just activities like checking into Facebook for the umpteenth time to see if anyone ‘liked’ that most recent post of our lunch. No, one of the biggest distractions is our own wandering thoughts. It’s astounding how much time we spend outside of the present. Many of us spend a majority of our time thinking or worse worrying about things that haven’t even happened – still worse, pining over things that have long since come to pass.
Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Whether it’s worrying about an upcoming important presentation or mulling over something unpleasant that may have happened days, weeks, even months ago, the past and future can be real happiness killers when all they do is distract us from the miracles around us now.
One of most difficult life hacks for happiness is simple presence. This is a goal for me nearly every day, not just in meditation but as a fluid consistent state throughout the day. To just being present in whatever moment you are in, with your full attention engaged. See ‘flow‘.
They say write about what you know so I write about travel and design mostly. And this week I’m flying to Palo Alto to Houston to Pittsburgh to New York to Minneapolis and then back to Portland in time to pick my daughter up from school when we’ll board another flight to Los Angeles to spend the weekend with friends.
I can now pack for a week of travel in less than 15 minutes. I have a system of pre-packed incidentals for every occasion, climate and country. But my most effective time saving pre-ritual in recent years is a concerted effort to ‘not’ plan or more accurately to not think about these trips before they happen. In the past I’d lose more productivity and time mentally preoccupied with a pending trip than the actual planning and packing and travel itself. I board as many as eighty flights a year and I’m telling the truth that nowadays I seldom know when my flight is until the very day I’m leaving. I should mention however this drives my wife and particularly my father absolutely nuts.
Sure, I know whether I’m leaving early morning or in the afternoon but beyond that, I refuse to give it much more thought. While in the past I might write off the entire day; passing on my workout, on brunches or engagements with friends the day of a long flight, I now no longer let it rob me of my own precious time and attention if I can help it.
I don’t know how to quantify the time I feel I’ve taken back by this but I know it’s more time present with my friends and family. And you can’t put a price on that.