Licensed Professional CounselorWhat does it mean to be fully present in your life? Don’t you hear people talking about that all the time now?

On the one hand, they’re talking about stress. They’re saying that if you’re distracted and worried – that if your body is here but your mind is elsewhere – you’re going to suffer with anxiety or depression. On the other hand, they’re saying that your life is going by and you’re missing it.

In my therapy groups, I use a lovely exercise that illustrates this concept from The Mindfulness Solution, a book by Ronald Siegel, PsyD. Ron was a professor of mine in Boston and is an international speaker on mindfulness and psychotherapy.

The Mindfulness SolutionFirst, Ron asks the reader to rate how often the following things happen: “I break or spill things,” “I rush through things without being really attentive to them,” “I listen to someone with one ear, doing something else at the same time,” “I become preoccupied with the future or the past,” etc.

Then, he asks the reader to recall a moment he or she has truly valued. In my groups someone always recalls the birth of a child and often someone remembers a special time in nature or a precious experience with a loved one.

So what’s the difference between those two exercises? Someone always figures it out quickly: When you break or spill things, you’re not being mindful. You’re being mind-less. When you don’t really listen to people, or when you’re preoccupied with worry and regret, you’re not fully present.

On the contrary, when you witness a birth or marvel at the beauty of nature, you are in the moment 100 percent. You think about nothing else.

But you might say, “Those are the good times! Those moments don’t happen every day! How does that help me?” Well, consider this: Perhaps even ordinary moments could be more precious if we could be more present. Perhaps we could settle-in to what we have today and struggle less against what is.

Ron writes: “Our incessant drive to seek out pleasure and avoid discomfort leaves us toppling forward toward what we imagine will be a better next moment. Bizarrely, this leaves us hurrying toward death, missing out on the moments that we’re actually alive.”

Not only do we miss out on the good of life. We also create our own suffering. We even compound our suffering by using drugs, alcohol, food, and various obsessions to change the subject and numb the pain.

So, what’s the answer? You can start with self-awareness. Therapy can help you with that. If you’ve been avoiding your feelings, you might want some company when you explore those dark places.

As you identify your feelings, you might find that you can tolerate them. You can accept them and you can accept yourself. You can be fully present no matter what is going on. You can be fully alive. That’s being mindful.

I strongly recommend The Mindfulness Solution as a thorough and easy-to-read guide to mindfulness. You can access Ron’s guided meditations and buy the book at this website: