I often find myself listening to my own thoughts, getting bogged down in my own mind, instead of engaging fully with the world and those in it. Sometimes, when someone is speaking, instead of listening, I am diagnosing myself with cancer. Or, when my family's watching TV, I'm thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow.
It is natural, to recede into your own mind. It is, likewise, impractical to think that one can live life forever in the moment, never thinking about what tomorrow will bring. However, spending most of your days inside your own head will drive you mad, alienate you from those around you, and can ultimately tear you apart from yourself.
My dad, to whom I am very similar, has likewise struggled with this similar anxiety and desire to be mindful.
He tells a story of when he was a young man, sitting in a meeting, spacing out, circling around his own worries instead of listening to the speaker on the stage. At one point in the speech, my father felt a tap on the side of his head, delivered by his mentor, who was seated nearby. My dad looked up, thinking maybe the speaker was talking about him or something personally interesting, but when he realized this was not the case, he put his head down again. After a few minutes, my dad felt another tap on his skull, again from his mentor. He looked up, hopeful, but soon settled back into his own thoughts, when he realized the conversation was, once again, not about him. When this happened a third time, my dad turned his mentor, confused and a bit irritable.
"What?" he demanded.
"Listen," his mentor said simply.
While my dad and I have attended lectures and plays and meetings together, we've never reenacted this exact chain of events. However, he does take time to remind me that I am in control of my thoughts and actions. I can choose to listen to speakers, to engage with new people, to ask questions of my friends. I can choose not to loop on potential diseases, spiral downward into perceived loneliness, or pose inane questions of WebMD.
For me, 2015 will be a lesson in mindfulness. It will be about moderation in all things, dedication to my craft, thoughtfulness in all my actions, and an intentionally positive orientation to the world. But most of all, it will be about listening.
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