You love your home, you love your work, and nobody could have better family and friends. Sure, there are some bumps in the road, but you have so much to be grateful for that every day should be a delight. And yet ... even a life filled with blessings can feel humdrum if you don’t take time to notice what you have and renew your appreciation. Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., Life Management Director at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, says this scenario is not uncommon. His advice: “Cultivate an attitude of mindfulness and openhearted curiosity.” You don’t have to travel far to achieve this, either. “It’s not about seeing new things,” he says, “but seeing through new eyes.”
Ordinary is extraordinary
Seeing the same mountain every day does not make the mountain any less spectacular; you may stop noticing it, though. Jeff says that practicing mindfulness is a powerful way to keep wonder in everyday life. “Living in the present allows for full acceptance and appreciation of each moment,” he says. “We can bring this approach to everything we do, whether it’s in our relationships or at the office or in solitude.”
At Canyon Ranch, Jeff leads mindfulness workshops using the most ordinary of props: a raisin. “I give each person a raisin, and tell them they’re going to have a mindful encounter with that raisin.”
First, Jeff asks them to pay purposeful attention to the raisin, noticing its color, the shine, and its one-of-a-kind ridges and shape. How does it feel in the fingers – sticky, soft, mushy? Feel it against the lips, then the tongue. And, finally, take a bite. See what it tastes like, hear the sound of chewing. Are there personal memories that go along with eating raisins? Now … imagine eating a whole meal that way.
This same technique works in everything you do. If you truly focus on the person you’re with, the garden you’re planting or your morning walk, you can experience all the possible joy in that moment. “It’s living in 3-D,” Jeff says, “but you don’t need the glasses.”
A spot of courage
Jeff points out that it can take courage to break out of the normal routine and try something that might present surprises or challenge. On the other hand, staying safe all the time can turn your comfort zone into a rut.
“The idea is to break through any self-created perimeter,” Jeff says. “This could mean trying something new, or it could be going back to something you loved to do in college. If you played clarinet when you were young, picking up the instrument again brings familiarity and renewed excitement.”
Jeff says that trying something new doesn’t necessarily mean changing what you do, but trying it in a different way. If you’re an artist, you might switch from oils to pastels. A regular hiker? Explore another set of trails – new scenery, same benefit. If you’ve always taken the same classes at your local gym, try something different.
The mindfulness that you apply to a raisin or a walk in the woods can enrich your relationships, Jeff says. “You see each other differently when you’re in the moment, not judging the past or worrying about the future. You appreciate each other in new ways.”
Jeff says that couples can choose activities to share mindfully. It might be a quiet dinner, or an outdoor adventure with focused awareness and communication. You can share this mindful attention with anyone who’s important to you and see each other with fresh eyes.
Some times of life offer themselves as opportunities for change and renewal. When children grow up and leave home, if you change careers, when you retire or go through any major life transition, you can find yourself at a loss for your next step.
“It can seem like you’ve lost your identity,” Jeff says, “but it’s also a chance to reinvent yourself or explore the things you’ve always wanted to.”
Consider professional athletes: If a player gets injured and returns to the sport later, he or she may never reach the same elite level again. And even an athlete without injuries will have a shorter career than people in most professions. This leaves relatively young people without the full-time involvement in the sports they loved – and it gives them plenty of opportunities to explore the areas they’ve set aside.
“Retirement for anyone at any age can be a crucial moment,” Jeff says. “Maybe that person had a great career, but family life has suffered. This can be the time to work on that. Or it’s the chance to do that one thing you’ve always meant to do – sail around the world, audition for community theater or go back to a long-ignored hobby.”
Young children & pets
One of the best ways to get into the present moment is to hang out with masters – little children and pets. If you play with a child, you get a second chance at experiencing a child’s feelings. Pets also teach you how to enjoy the moment. Have you ever met a dog who worried about the economy?
To see how effective these masters of mindfulness are, just bring a baby or a puppy into the board room and watch the world change.
The world’s new challenge – uni-tasking
In this era of multitasking, people often feel unproductive if they can’t text, talk and change a tire at the same time. It may seem that the more things you do at once, the greater the achievement. The opposite might be true.
Jeff’s suggestions for renewal and appreciation through mindfulness are really about focusing on one thing at a time. How can you really appreciate anything if your mind is constantly jumping around and putting thoughts on hold? Being mindful makes life feel fresh every day. Think of it as uni-tasking – focusing on the one thing you’re doing now. Can you do it?