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Your Health
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Rona Barrett: A Mindful Way to Be ‘In the Moment’

When your brain acts like a washing machine, whizzing away, ruminating about the past and worrying about the future, what can you do to stop it from spinning out of control?

When all the bells, whistles and tweets demand you do this, that and the other, how do you mentally mute them?

Lots of people are turning to a practice that turns their mindless, autopilot selves into “mindful” selves.

Mindfulness, meditation and yoga are all different pathways to being “in the moment.” While yoga and meditation might not be possible — or our personal preference — there are some practical, simple alternatives to becoming mindful. Those in the know suggest that one way to achieve mindfulness is for 10 minutes a day, sit in a comfortable chair in a relaxed and alert posture. Pay attention to each breath in and out. This grounds us in the present and allows us to move into a state of consciousness and stillness.

Then ask, what am I experiencing right now? We observe ourselves in the present. We identify any thoughts or feelings we may have and stay with them until they pass. Then we focus back on our breathing.

Of course, there’s more to it, including how to deal with the thoughts and feelings that keep us from being in the now. But this is just the gist of it. The all-knowing Internet will provide countless sites if you are interested in attaining this much-needed focus, calm and clarity.

I turn to the piano for focus, calm and clarity. I’m no Van Cliburn. I have small hands but I did take piano lessons primarily to get an extra $5 from my father each time I’d learn a new piece. However, sitting at the piano I am able to shut everything out and just listen to the notes as I start tinkling. Everything soon falls away and my sole focus becomes the notes.

Psychologists call this process of enjoyable immersion in an activity a state of total absorption. If you know the works of Joseph Campbell, he refers to this as "bliss."

Author Ruth Krauss tells us in her 1950 book, Open House for Butterflies, “Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.” I believe that. The key is to discover our own version of "a little stream."

When I lived on my ranch and found myself stressed, overwhelmed and needed to get away, I would find myself outside, usually at night, and all I needed to do was look up. The beauty of the star-filled night sky would help calm me down, help me to appreciate the now and help me to be grateful.

Being grateful is another suggested gateway to mindfulness. If we take a few minutes every day to write down a couple of things we are most grateful for, we will have a long list that we can revisit any time.

At the top of my grateful list: I am grateful for the life I have been given.

I am also grateful for having reached the age I am. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m still here — at least the last time I checked the obituaries!

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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