If you clean the floor with love, you have given the world an invisible painting. ~ Osho Click To Tweet
You’ve most likely, at one point, thrown a rock into a lake and watched the ensuing ripples flow outward from the point of impact. Perhaps you realized the profound effect you’d had on the Earth in that very moment, or maybe you moved on with your life without giving your actions a second thought.
If you’re in the latter category, take a moment to realize exactly how powerful such a seemingly inconsequential action really is: the rock you threw would’ve laid dormant on the shore, possibly for all eternity, if not for you deciding to pick it up and change the course of its destiny. You released it from your hand, it flew through the air and hit the water, causing the irruption of trillions of molecules of water in the ripples it created, travelling trillions of times farther than they would have if not for you. Even though you didn’t realize it at the time, your actions changed the earth, if only in the most miniscule of ways.
The point is, every action you take in your lifetime has a subsequent consequence, whether you realize it or not. These consequences will, in turn, set in motion a string of events that could end up changing the world in profound ways. And even if they don’t, they will undoubtedly affect your own life, and the lives of those in it, in ways you’ll either find desirable or undesirable. Because of this, it’s important that we remain mindful of our actions and ourselves in each and every moment of our lives.
Mindfulness can be described as a “state of active, open attention on the present.” It means being aware of all that surrounds you — and all that is within you, i.e. your thoughts and emotions — at every waking moment. Being mindful allows you to appreciate your time and experiences on Earth, with the knowledge that what currently is will never be again, and thus is uniquely special.
Not only does mindfulness enable you to appreciate the good times you experience, it also shows you the value of the rough times as well. The old saying “everything happens for a reason” isn’t necessarily true, but what is true is that you have the power to give meaning to everything you experience in life. Remaining mindful allows you to turn a less-than-desirable situation into a learning experience that will allow you to grow as a person.
Have you ever been so incredibly busy with life that the days, weeks, months, and even years seem to have flown by? Don’t worry: it happens to everyone. But the reason this happens is because we stop being mindful. We become so focused on the obligations that life throws at us that, in a certain sense, we lose track of the fact that we’re even alive. Sounds strange, I know, but think about it– the majority of us end up on autopilot while going about the daily grind, all the while vaguely waiting (hoping?) for something better to come along, to the point that we don’t realize our lives are ending one minute at a time.
So how do we break out of the slump? How do we become more mindful? Though it won’t happen all at once, we’ve got to start somewhere. Take a moment and ground yourself. Literally grab onto whatever stable object is closest to you: a chair, a table, a countertop; anything sturdy. Breathe deeply. Feel the cool air filling your lungs, then leaving your body as you exhale. Clear your mind by paying attention to the sounds around you that otherwise would simply be background noise. Take a sip of water anf feel the cooling effect of the liquid as it fills your mouth and runs down your throat. Taste the sweetness of an apple as you crunch into it. Become actively involved in these otherwise everyday tasks, and realize just how much you can get out of them when you actually pay attention to the little things.
Once you’ve started actively living your life and being mindful of every passing moment, pass on your newfound skills to others. The best way to do this is to model mindful behavior. You might get a few strange looks at first, but your friends and family will see the benefits soon enough.
Instead of rushing through dinner with the television on in the background, focus solely on enjoying the food on your plate. If you’re grocery shopping and one of your favorite songs comes on the PA system, stop frantically searching for the next item on your list and take in the music. To use an awfully cliched metaphor (yet one that actually applies here), stop and smell the roses once in a while, because one day they won’t be there.
So what about others? The fact is, it’s a tough battle to convince someone else to be more mindful by simply using your words. (Plus you run the risk of having them assume you’re on something that you’re not: “Have you ever, like, tasted water, man?”). But you can definitely show others how much enjoyment you get out of life just by living it. A genuine daily attempt at mindfulness will bring it out. Really listen when someone’s speaking. Ask your friend to take a detour and park so you can watch the sunset. Bring them to a new restaurant you discovered last week. Point out the weirdness of the world whenever you see it. Look for the novelty in every moment (it’s there). The more you practice — without preaching — the more likely it is that some of it will rub off on them.
Being mindful allows us to recognize when others around us are in need, making us more likely to lend a helping hand. It could be something as simple as picking up some papers an elderly person has dropped on the way to their car, or allowing a woman with a crying child to cut in front of you in the grocery line. One small, selfless act may affect a perfect stranger in such a way that it fundamentally changes their mood for the day and causes a chain reaction of kindness to spread to everyone else they come into contact with.
Yet the effects of the practice travel far beyond the realm of perception. Physical and chemical changes take place in your brain, as well. The woman you let ahead of you in line is more likely to do something nice for someone else in the near future because of an increase in oxytocin, the “trust hormone.” An increase in oxytocin results in improved communication and a more trusting connection between people, even those who have never met before. In other words, oxytocin is the brain’s natural way of convincing us to “pay it forward” after someone does something nice for us.
Now think about the impact this simple practice could have when honestly taken up by millions of people. It really is a ‘kindness virus’. Now do you see how a seemingly insignificant act — like throwing a rock into a pond — can end up changing the world?