- DO ONE THING AT A TIME. When you are eating, eat. When you are walking, walk. When you are bathing, bathe. When you are working, work. When you are in a group or a conversation, focus your attention on the very moment you are in with another person. When you are thinking, think. When you are worrying, worry. When you are planning, plan. When you are remembering, remember. Do each thing with all of your attention.
- If other actions, or other thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, LET GO OF DISTRACTIONS and go back to what you are doing - again, and again, and again.
- CONCENTRATE YOUR MIND. If you are doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time" (page 113, Mindfulness Handout 3).
My DBT therapist told us that the opposite of mindfulness is multitasking. She said that the point of practicing being one-mindful is so that we are not missing out on our own lives. Instead, we participate totally in them. This reminds me of the John Lennon quote "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." It's really profound when you consider it.
One of the challenges of being one-mindful, though, is not liking the present moment and allowing the past and future to get in the way.
I have to admit something. As much as I believe that it is much more effective to do one thing at a time, I am almost constantly multitasking. It's not because I think it's a good way to get a lot of things done either. It's just that it seems if I don't overwhelm my mind with a number of tasks at once, I don't distract myself from the possibility of feeling empty or emotional. Because feeling empty usually frightens and concerns me, I try to "fill up" by doing multiple things at once.
If I'm at the computer checking email, I have multiple browsers open and keep switching back and forth, refreshing Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
If I'm cleaning the house, I'm calling my mother or sister to chat with them while I'm doing that task. If I have a sink full of dishes, I turn on talk radio to distract my mind with that instead of just being with my own thoughts. I guess I'm afraid to do that sometimes.
Tonight, though, I decided to try to do something one-mindfully. I mentioned earlier that I like to watch upbeat shows. I like to watch feel-good movies, too. I selected a movie, and JUST watched it. For a full 90 minutes, with the exception of a restroom break, I sat there and paid attention. I didn't drift off and lose track of the plot. I connected with the characters because I followed them closely. I didn't have my iPad propped up, alerting me to every new tweet, Facebook message, email, text, and comment.
It actually felt good to JUST watch the movie one-mindfully. I'm smiling now as I write this, because I was truly terrified that I might not be able to tolerate this exercise. The fact that it was a success gives me hope that I can continue to apply this skill to further reduce my suffering, to regulate my emotional distress, and to suffer less.
If you're wanting to try to use the One-mindfully skill but aren't quite ready to do it with a 90 minute movie, there are some smaller, but very powerful ways you can practice, such as:
- Mindfully make and drink tea. Just MAKE the tea. Notice all of the sensations and every movement involved in each moment to prepare the tea, wait for the tea, pour the tea into the mug. Steep the tea. Hold the warm mug. Feel the steam on your face. Sip the tea. Now focus on just DRINKING the tea. Be sure that you've already read this so you can put it aside and truly be in the moment while you practice.
- Mindfully take a shower. I like to joke that the shower is where I solve the world's problems - or at least go through my entire day or what I anticipate my night will be like. But try JUST SHOWERING. From the process of disrobing, to adjusting the water, to stepping in, to feeling the water on your skin. Every step of washing your hair, using the soap, and just standing under the water flow. Notice how it feels to turn off the water...to reach for the towel, to dry off. To get dressed again. Allow the bathroom to be your sanctuary for this mindfulness exercise.
I plan on practicing both of these exercises this weekend. Will you give them a chance, too? What other activities can you do one-mindfully?
Thanks for reading.