Where Is Your Mind?
When I was young, I would read all the time, and that included when I was eating. My parents used to yell at me: “When you eat, eat—don’t read. When you read, read—don’t eat.” I could not understand why they were so upset. What was it that I was doing wrong?
Many years later, in meditation and yoga, I was introduced to the concept of “being present.” I began to wonder, “What does it mean to be present?” Now, I understand my parents.
If your mind is not on what you are eating, you will not even know what you are eating. You will not enjoy the food if your mind is somewhere else.
If you are making love and your mind is not there, are you enjoying it? For a man, not being present might mean losing an erection. If a woman’s mind is somewhere other than the sex act, she might not be able to orgasm or even enjoy the intimate encounter.
Being present means being integrated. Being present means your mind and body are in the same place at the same time. Some yogis insist that in order to be integrated, one must not even speak while eating; be mindful exclusively of what you are chewing and swallowing.
We have a lot of temptation to defocus. The first temptation is the television. When you go to restaurants to eat, there are often televisions blaring and you cannot avoid watching. People eat or drink as they watch the tube. I have visited American families who even have televisions in their dining room so they can watch TV as they eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
The television is not the only temptation now. It is the iPhone that is drawing our attention away from being present. Look at how people double or triple task simultaneously: eating, speaking on the phone, and watching TV. No wonder they do not remember what they ate, nor exactly what they said to or were told by the other party.
Why is being present so important? Because you must be present to enjoy what you are doing. The more you enjoy, the better your quality of life is. When your mind is not where your body is, you enjoy life less.
Having come to this conclusion, I am trying to force myself to be present. I happen to have a very fertile mind which, while it helps my career, it is disastrous to my personal life. Am I enjoying life? Probably not, because my mind is never where my body is. When your mind is always absent, you lose track of what day it is, what season it is, what year it is. You lose track of where you are and sometimes you even wonder who you are.
When someone asks me, “Where were you last summer?” it takes me a minute or more of thinking before I can recall. Why? Because when I was there, I wasn’t there—my mind was somewhere else.
When I would go for a walk, which the doctor prescribed, I would engage my mind—I would think about my books, my work, my clients, my family and notice nothing as I walk around. Crossing the street could be dangerous. I would not see a car approaching. I am trying to fight this. How? By stopping my mind. I force my mind to be wherever I am. I look at store windows and architecture and people passing by. I look at whatever is there, forcing myself to notice colors, shapes, sizes. As I look at people, I try to imagine what their profession is. When sitting to rest, I try to imagine their life as I study their body posture or facial expression. When communicating with people, I try to maintain eye contact or my mind will wander away.
Can you be present? Can you stop your mind? Who is the boss of your life: you or your mind? They are not the same. The more present you are, the more you control your mind rather than your mind controlling you, the better your quality of life will be.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Founder of Adizes Institute Worldwide