An hour into our family road trip, my mind started racing. I forgot to pack sunscreen. Ok, I’ll have to add that to the list to buy when we get there.
I grab a pen and start making a list. What else did we forget?
Did we confirm the reservation? I’ll check my phone.
My phone... Where's my phone?
Got it. There's a work email. I’ll handle that really quickly right now.
What was the plan again? What are we going to do when we get there?
I’m trapped in a car, driving down the highway on the road, surrounded by family as we start a vacation, with literally nowhere to go and nothing else to do, and yet my mind is anywhere but here.
And the kids are the same - they’re thinking about things they left at home, or worrying about getting there. One forgot his homework, and is panicking about his upcoming test. Did we remember to bring the allergy medicine? And what about the car activities - we brought the crafts but lost the glue stick!
Everyone is in the car at the present moment, yet nobody is really in the car or in the present moment.
“Are we there yet?”
“I forgot my snack!”
“We’re going to be late for the game!”
“Omg that driver just cut me off, what a jerk!”
“She’s kicking my seat!”
And so I raise my voice and say, "EVERYBODY STOP!"
"I spy with my little eye something blue."
The car in front of us…
Daddy’s Mets t-shirt…
the colored pencil…
Mommy’s phone case…
And with that little game, we're all laughing and joking together, and all is well. We’re back in the here and now. Present. Together. Not worrying about what was or what’s to come.
And that’s when I realize that this is mindfulness. Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
And what better way to get to that state than through a game of “I Spy?” When we’re paying attention to what’s in front of us, we notice colors, characteristics, objects, nature, people, in a playful, non-judgmental way. We’ve left behind the distractions of our racing minds, and come to the present moment, together.
This is a perfect example of something called grounding.
Grounding basically means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious, distracted, or frustrated.
It helps you stay in the present moment instead of worrying about things that may happen in the future or events that have already happened, but you still find yourself going over and over them in your head.
So next time you feel your mind running away from you, you can use your 5 senses to help relax your mind and focus on the present moment:
Look around the room, focusing on your sense of sight. Notice a few things you can see, just notice them. You can choose to find things that are a specific color or shape if you want to.
Notice your sense of hearing. What sounds do you hear around you?
Bring your attention to the sense of smell. What are 1 or 2 things you smell?
Thinking about touch. What do you feel? Notice a few things that you can touch - what your hands are holding, the feeling of your clothing on your body, the ground beneath your feet, it can be anything.
Taste. Do you taste anything right now? If not, that’s ok too; it’s worthwhile to notice the absence as well as the presence of things.