If you remember when Happy Days and Lavern and Shirley were on primetime TV, then you will likely remember Abbott & Costello’s bit: “Who’s on first. What’s on second. I Don’t Know’s on Third.” (Google them if you’re on the younger side of the force!) The following three exercises in mindfulness steal a bit of the show from that classic comedy team. (And bonus: you don’t need to get off your seat to try any of these!)
Let’s begin with a brief reminder about what mindfulness is, as described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Jon describes mindfulness as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” often adding “…in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” Mindfulness is consciously bringing all of your attention to the present moment, making your life even richer on the inside. (For a more in-depth description of mindfulness, refer back to my last blog, “What’s So Special About Mindfulness?”)
Exercise 1: Who’s on first
To understand Abbot & Costello’s joke, you need to understand Who’s actually on first, so let’s take a closer look at one of the Who’s in your life. Consider someone you would like to talk to right now and call them. (Honestly, this exercise works best if you can see the person, so speaking with someone in person or FaceTiming is a better option.) Now listen to what they are saying—not just the words. Listen to the sound of their voice, the highs and lows. Watch the expression on their face and notice any physical gestures or movements. Listen to the feeling behind the words. Don’t let your mind judge the conversation; just pay attention—wholeheartedly, fully. Notice any fragrance in the air. Be in the moment. Understand Who’s on first and give that person all of your attention.
Exercise 2: What’s on second
Now, try to get a full grasp of What’s on second. Pick up something in front of you. (This exercise is great if that something in front of you happens to be a piece of chocolate.) Hold it in your hands. Feel it. Notice it’s texture. (If it happens to be candy, taste it—but don’t look for the second bite. Stay in the moment with your current mouthful.) Is there a fragrance? Use all of your senses. Notice how your mouth moves or how something feels on all sides. Take a deep, conscious look at something, giving it all of your attention and noticing all of its’ aspects. Experience What’s on second with renewed interest by wholly focusing on it.
Exercise 3: I Don’t Know’s on third
Look around, but don’t just take a quick glance. Take your time. Attempt to notice things without judgement (so don’t blame yourself for all the dust that has accumulated or start to make a “to-do” list in your head). What colors do you see? Is there something that you may have “seen” a thousand times before, but never really noticed? Embrace your surroundings. Breathe in the air deeply. Again, allow yourself to truly be in your surroundings on every level.
Mindfulness invites you to slow down, to take hold of the present moment, and to swim in it. It’s a practice. It’s an effort—and it can be a game-changer for how you experience each moment in life. It will make your world more vivid and beautiful, and it’s not only fun for your mind, but it also nurtures your heart. (Since I’m also a huge fan of the conscious practice of gratitude, why not take a moment now to thank all of the people/things/places that you just honored with your attention? Send a little love and appreciation out there for all of the delicious parts of life that you just had the benefit of experiencing.) And if it feels right for you, try to bring a little bit of Abbott & Costello into your life whenever you can.