For many of us, unless a scent is extremely strong, extremely pleasant, or extremely unpleasant, we don’t pay much attention to it. Even with our limited sense of smell (compared to many animals), there is a wide range of smells in the world that we can enjoy, that can provide information, and that can become another universe for us to explore.
There are many variants out there of the Five Senses Mindfulness exercise, in which the participant focuses on each of their five senses in turn. It’s a great exercise in mindfulness and a good starting point for being more mindful of our senses, but if we can expand this idea into our regular moment-to-moment mindfulness, it will result in whole new worlds opening up to us.
It’s easy to say, but there is so much we have to keep track of. It’s also hard to stay focused—to keep our minds on what we are doing without getting distracted or letting our minds wander.
It’s important to remember that we are only capable of doing one thing at a time. At any single moment, our brains can only think about one thing. We may be under the illusion that we’re able to work on several things at once, but what is really happening is that we’re focusing on one thing for a very short time then moving on to something else. We may even be cycling through several tasks, causing us to think we’re focusing on all of them at the same time, but the bottom line is we can only focus on one at any given moment.
People often want something different, something more. We find it quite hard to see the potential for happiness in the present, even when the present is fantastic. Even during our “most exciting times,” we tend to think about what’s coming next. On vacation, we’re thinking of the next day’s surfing, of the friends coming to visit, of the great dinner we’re going to have. It’s hard for us to “just be,” to eek out all the joy in what is happening right here, right now.
We all have the responsibility for our own lives. That may seem obvious, but there’s a big difference between acknowledging that fact and actually incorporating it into how we live our lives. If we truly embrace our responsibility for our lives, we live our lives according to what gives our lives meaning and what makes us happy.
It’s extremely easy to live a reactive life, bouncing around based on what’s happening to you and using external cause and effect as the foundation for where your life is going. But the fact is, the direction our lives take is totally and completely up to us. It may not seem like that sometimes—we all have elements of our lives that seem totally out of our control—but if we take a closer look, we might find that many of those elements are in our lives by choice. We could choose to drop them if it came down to it (see “Choice”). We also might find that we’re letting those things dictate the direction of our lives when we could be taking more control of some of those “out-of-our-control” elements.
When most people think about peace, they might immediately jump to the absence of conflict or war, but there is so much more to the idea. Peace is an attitude that we can keep in our hearts; it is an intention we can strive to fulfill. Peace is an approach toward life that, if we stay true to it, will allow us to move through our lives in harmony with those around us. However, it is more significant than that. Peace is an ideal we must aspire to—a condition that the human race must eventually evolve toward if we are to survive.