Mindfulness: Knowing Your Current Location

When you want to go somewhere, first piece of info your GPS app will ask or figure out is your starting location. If you're trying to get to LA, the directions will be a lot different if you're starting in Denver than if you're starting in Phoenix. Likewise we need to know where we are. This isn't always pleasant. You may not like where you are in life. You may be avoiding the reality that you're in a dead end job or your health is poor or you are, in fact, depressed, or you are unhappy in your marriage. But acknowledging where you are is the first step to change. Once I know where I am on the map, I can plot a course to get out of there!

When looking at where you are, be weary not to judge it. Be as objective as possible. You don't enter "my ugly-ass neighborhood" into the GPS. You just enter the address. Judgement doesn't help in an app and it doesn't help in life. You also wouldn't enter the starting point as "stuck" into a GPS. Similarly, focusing on how you feel stuck or trapped or helpless doesn't get you anywhere. You can always change your focus or your response to a situation. Because of confirmation bias, you will find evidence of your stuckness if you look for it. But the full and more accurate picture usually includes some options to change a situation or at least respond to it differently.

This is brave work. You may not like where you are and what you see. And, until you are brave enough to look at life, you will likely not be brave enough to change it. Be brave now.

To practice observing, the skill we need to be able to see where we are, we practice mindfulness. Here's an exercise to help strengthen your ability to observe: Move your head and move your eyes around the area you're in. Label what you see. Be curious, as if you've never seen it before. Be thorough as if you'll never see it again. Simply list objects and describe their color or shape or movement. If you get distracted or start judging, simply notice and return to observing and describing.

Practice building this mindfulness muscle so that you will be able to flex it later with your emotions or relationships or your body or your job.