What is up my friends? Welcome to episode eleven of Speakeasy English. Today we talk about mindfulness.
Okay, thank you for joining me on another episode! If you have not already listened to episode one, I recommend that you go back and listen to episode one first. That will give you a lot of good information on how to use this podcast (and other podcasts like it) to acquire English just by listening every day. In fact, the first ten episodes are all about natural language learning and how to acquire English easily and automatically just by listening and reading every day. Now, starting with today’s episode, all of the podcast episodes will be about different and interesting topics and hopefully you will find them useful and entertaining. The idea of this podcast is to give you a free resource with English audio to which you can listen and also free access to the transcripts on our website. Yes, that’s correct. The transcripts are all free on our website: speakeasyenglish.club. That is speakeasyenglish.club. Alright, so let’s get to it.
Today we are talking about mindfulness. What is mindfulness? Well, I’ll start by saying, most of us spend the majority of our lives lost in thought. That means thinking incessantly, thinking without even realizing that you are thinking. Have you ever been looking across the room and you realize that you are not even looking where you are looking? Yes, your eyes are pointed in a certain direction, but you are not paying any attention to what you are seeing because you are so deep in thought, in your own head, that your actual experience in that moment is totally ignored. Unfortunately, most of us live the majority of our lives just like that. We think nonstop. We never stop thinking. We ruminate on mistakes we made or conversations we had, or we incessantly wonder what’s going to happen in the future, or what someone else might think of us, or what they might think of something we did or said. And we can’t let it go. We can’t stop. In fact, much of the time we do not even realize that we are thinking! We ignore conversations that are happening. We are not paying attention in school or spending time with our family. We might lay awake at night unable to turn off these racing thoughts. And all of this is happening exclusively in our minds. It is not physically real. It is happening only in our minds. The place where we actually are (physically), and the people we are with, and the things that are actually happening to us in real life, all of that takes a backseat (it gets ignored) as we prioritize these racing thoughts that we cannot stop. Does this sound familiar?
Mindfulness is being present. It is being where you are. It is being in the now and not being lost in a never ending waterfall of incessant thoughts. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without any judgment. You could be paying attention to outside sensations (like the birds singing or the sound of the wind in the trees) or the thoughts and emotions that enter your mind, or even physical sensations in your body. Mindfulness is paying attention and noticing all of these things as they happen, without any judgment, without getting caught up in any negative or positive emotion. It is simply noticing and observing all of these things as they happen. As you spend time noticing and observing all of these things without judgment, you will begin to notice that all of these thoughts and emotions and feelings, they almost always fade away (disappear) just like clouds floating by in the sky. Thoughts arise, and then they disappear, and new thoughts arise to take their place, and then they also disappear. Every thought and emotion that you have ever had, and that you ever will have, arises and then fades away. As you develop the ability to observe this process and observe what is happening in each moment (without any judgment), you become a witness to all of these thoughts and emotions, and you can just let them roll by. It’s like observing a river, a raging river, with a strong current of water. And you develop the ability to simply watch the waves pass by instead of being caught up in the current and being pulled down the river yourself. I hope that analogy makes sense. It will – the more you practice mindfulness, the more you practice observing your thoughts and noticing your thoughts instead of being swept away by them without even noticing that it is happening. Now, it is important to recognize that mindfulness is not suppressing your thoughts. It is not trying to avoid thinking. It is simply noticing when thoughts arise and observing them without any judgment and allowing them to fade away. This ability allows you to prevent thinking without knowing you are thinking. Because that is when we are distracted: when we are trying to do something and instead we are off in our heads (thinking) without even knowing that we are doing it. When this sort of non stop thinking, and involuntary thinking, takes you away from the people that you love and the things that you enjoy, then you are a victim of this compulsive thinking. Mindfulness will help you break that cycle. It will help you notice your thoughts when you start to have them, and it will allow you to come back to the present moment before you get swept away in a river of thoughts.
So why is paying attention to the present moment important?
I remember when I was 21 or 22 years old, I was having a conversation with a friend. I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but I do remember saying that it felt like I was living 99% of my life in my head. At the time, I did not realize that was a problem. In fact, I thought it meant I was a thoughtful person, a deep thinker. Now, looking back, I realize that I was permanently distracted and very rarely enjoying the present moment. I was always thinking about my life, thinking about my future, and thinking about thinking. But I was doing those things so compulsively and constantly that I did not even realize I was doing it, most of the time. It was just my normal state. My normal mental state was to be swept away in endless rivers of thought. I was analyzing and replaying every moment and thinking about possible futures. And the sad truth is that I was doing those things (obsessively thinking about life) instead of actually living my life (instead of being present for the actual moments of my life). So why is paying attention to the present moment important? Well in your life, in your experience of life, it is always right now, and it will always be right now. The present moment is all we have, and in many ways, it is the only thing that is real. The past only exists in our memory, in our mind, and the future only exists in our imagination and our projection of how it might be. But in the past it was always right now. And in the future it will always feel like right now. I know this concept is strange and it can be difficult to fully understand and to fully grasp, but it is very important to realize that the present moment is all we ever have. Tomorrow it will feel like the present moment, and in ten years it will still feel like the present moment. And five years ago, it felt like the present moment. The way we experience life exclusively happens in the present moment. There is no other experience in life other than right now. So it is impossible to experience life in any moment other than right now.
In this moment, the quality of your experience depends on your attention. It depends on what you give your attention to. There are a number of really fantastic quotes out there from very intelligent people that are saying more or less the same thing. Catherine Price says, “Your life is what you pay attention to.” I believe it was Sam Harris that rephrased it, saying, “your life is the sum total (the grand total) of all the things you gave your attention to.” If you are lost in thought instead of enjoying a silly conversation with your child or instead of connecting with your spouse, then you are missing out on life! If you are lost in a nonstop cycle of stress and worrying about the future, instead of taking in the beauty of a perfect sunset, then you are missing out on life! If you are so consumed with the stories that you tell yourself about your life that you are not able to actually be present and live your life, then you are missing the point!
The ability to live mindfully means being able to choose where we put our attention – to choose to be present instead of being swept away in stories that we tell ourselves about the past, about the future, and everything in between. The quality of every moment you live depends on your ability to put your attention in the right place. And when you add all of those moments together, just like Catherine Price and many others have said, when you add all of those moments together, your life ends up being the grand total of all the places where you put your attention.
Alright, so we have established that mindfulness and living mindfully are extremely important to the quality of life that we live. But how do we develop mindfulness? How do we develop this ability to recognize our thoughts when they arise, to observe them, and to let them pass so we can bring our focus back to the present moment? How do we develop this ability to prevent ourselves from being unconsciously swept away? There are a number of ways to cultivate mindfulness, but the most common is mindfulness meditation. On our next episode, we will talk about mindfulness meditation and how to practice, what the benefits look like, and we will address some of the common objections that I hear when I suggest mindfulness meditation. So if you are interested in reducing stress and anxiety, while improving your ability to think clearly and be present for the ones you love, then do not miss our next episode!
Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to check out the free transcripts on our website. And if you enjoy having this free resource, please be sure to subscribe and leave a review! That will help me immensely to connect with other language learners, just like you, that are working to become fluent in English. If you have not already, I strongly recommend starting with episode one and listening to the first ten episodes, because those will help you understand how to use this podcast to acquire fluency easily, automatically, and naturally. One more reminder before we go: don’t forget to listen to this episode multiple times! You don’t want to listen just once. You need to listen multiple times. Spaced repetition is the key that will help you become fluent. Alright, see you next time. Cheers!