I went to a lecture the other night on Seeing Color & Enhancing Creativity presented by photographer Seth Resnick. To warm up he had the audience close their eyes and picture what the person next to them was wearing. Because many couldn’t do it, he used the exercise to illustrate just how much we miss even when something is right in front of us.
Walking By Joshua Bell
Seth’s warmup exercise reminded me of the Washington Post’s subway experiment where world renowned violinist Joshua Bell, disguised as just another street musician, played music during morning rush hour in a Washington DC metro station. Every time I watch the Joshua Bell subway video it makes me cry.
In 43 minutes of playing some of the most beautiful music ever written – 1,097 people – most on their way to work – walked right on by. The few that listened dropped a grand total of $32.17 into Joshua Bell’s hat. Only one woman recognized him. Never did a crowd gather. If we are unable to break out of our daily trance when moments like Joshua Bell emerge, what else are we missing in our life?
We currently live in a world consumed by speed, instant gratification, and crazy schedules. I believe our lifestyles contribute significantly to not seeing the truth and beauty that is right in front of us. I cry because we miss our kid’s smile, the squirrel scampering across the fence, the smell of rain, the warmth of the sun. Every day we hurry around in our own bubbles of busyness, missing out on the life that is right in front of us.
Mindfulness and Addiction
To overcome addiction requires enhancing your ability to see. You must learn to recognize the patterns that lead up to acting out, and awaken to what you really want in the moment you decide to inject a drug, put money on the poker table, or take another sip of wine. This is easier said than done, because when addiction is active it puts your brain in an altered trance-like state that makes it challenging to fully experience the present moment.
One way to break out of the trance – and out of addiction – is getting good at being present. The best way to do this is by developing a mindfulness practice that over time helps you connect to the magic of the moment. It’s magical because it’s in the present that we experience life and have the opportunity to proactively influence our future and change behavior.
5 ways to build a mindfulness practice:
1) Spend some time learning about mindfulness practices:
2) Pick a method of mindfulness practice that appeals to you, and that you can commit to doing for a trial period of time – say 90 days.
3) If the various methods discussed in the above sites don’t appeal to you, think about which sense (or senses) engages you most in the world – sight, smell, sound, touch, taste – and then learn to use that sense as way into your deeper self and the world around you.
For example, the images I create from taking pictures are mirrors of my internal world. They help me better understand myself, what I care about, what I focus on, what I see – and what I don’t see! Photography for me has become a mindfulness practice. But the same can be true of cooking, making music, being a masseuse, or any other discipline that relies strongly upon our senses.
4) Develop a daily habit of incorporating your practice into your life by making time for it, prioritizing it, and doing it no matter what particular rollercoaster life takes you on. Pick a simple and easy way to track progress, such as assessing daily your level of calm energy and stress, and perhaps how it influences your addictive behavior.
5) There is no right or wrong when it comes to developing a mindfulness practice. You can stop, change, or make adjustments along the way. The key is finding a way to live in the present moment as much as possible, where you are fully awake, aware, and able to decide how you will respond to any given moment. It is also in the present, in the gap between stimulus and response, where you consciously do what you need to do to overcome addiction.