I regularly read a daily devotional called ‘The Word for Today’ and I was struck by the following description of the futility of fame and fortune:
Society’s fascination with Hollywood and celebrities has gone a little crazy. Millions idolise those who have achieved fame and fortune, yet stardom does not provide the satisfaction it advertises. Marilyn Monroe could have told us that. So could Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
Consider the adoration accorded to Mohammed Ali in his prime. He was known as the ‘prize fighter who couldn’t be beaten’. His picture appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated more times than any other athlete in history. Wherever he went the cameras followed. But wealth and fame cannot buy good health and he fell victim to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.
Sportswriter Gary Smith spent some time with the ailing fighter at his home and asked to see his trophy room. Ali escorted him to a dark, damp barn beside the house. There leaning against a wall was a board displaying mementoes – photos of the ‘Thrilla in Manilla’, pictures of Ali dancing and punching, and hoisting championship belts he had won over his head.
But the pictures were smeared with the white streaks caused by pigeons that had made their home in the rafters. Ali picked up the board and turned it around, face to the wall. Then as he started to leave, Smith heard him mumble, “I had the whole world, and it wasn’t nuthin, look at me now.”
You can’t guarantee your future
This account fills me with sadness as the once great Ali has been reduced to a person who has a sharp mind but a broken body. Parkinson’s is a cruel illness which slowly destroys the body which in Ali’s case was an outstanding example of peak physical condition.
This makes me think about the fragility of life and how important it is to make the most of each day and to be grateful for what we have. I have studied Mindfulness in great detail and this is something which helps me be ‘in the moment’ and appreciate everything around me. I don’t think about the past or the future I am just aware of the present moment.
More aware of your thoughts, emotions and surroundings
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future, and constantly multi-tasking. It is easy to lose awareness of the present moment as we become lost in our efforts to juggle work, home, finances, and other conflicting demands.
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do. However, learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives by being ‘fully in the moment’. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head and body. It helps us recognise and change habitual emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding.
“Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being.”
Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.
Be in the moment
Mark Williams, Professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. Mindfulness can be an antidote to the ‘tunnel vision’ that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.
He says that an important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment to moment. Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
Thoughts for the week:
1. Remind yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the world around you as you go about your daily life. Notice the sensations, the food you eat and the air moving past your ears as you walk. This has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ and to give you new perspectives on life.
2. Pick a time during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. For example, this could be the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime. Try new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, to help you notice the world in a new way.
3. Notice the thoughts buzzing round in your head. Just observe them without trying to change them, like watching leaves floating past in a stream. This takes practice.
4. Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
5. Really notice what you’re sensing in a given moment. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
6. Your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you. Recognising this important insight can free you from negative thought patterns.
7. Tune in to your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
Well that’s if for this week and if you have found this information interesting you’ll find more detail in my book Off the Wall – How to Develop World Class Mental Resilience’ which is currently on offer with free postage and packing.
Until next time have a great weekend and stay positive.