Do you turn your gaze when you receive a shot? Dream of a tropical island while you are on the dentist’s chair? Imagine walking on the beach while you are crushed into the seats in coach for a cross-country flight? Our minds are so good at these little disconnections, these travels away from the current discomfort. The problem is that, as with anything we repeatedly do, that mental disconnection can become a habit.
When I take an honest look back at my life, I can see that I have, at times, become too dependent upon my mind’s ability to wander. I had two years of teaching where I was completely miserable due to the circumstances at the school. In order to cope, I distracted myself as much as possible. I was not present in that classroom at all, although I still made connections with the kids and had test scores that proved they mastered the material. I knew that I was unhappy with work, but when I realized how dependent I had become on disconnected, I knew that I had to make a change. A drastic one.
Mindfulness is a highlighter. Examine your own life. When do you tend to engage in mental escape? That is a clue that something about that environment, situation, or relationship may need to change because it is causing you pain. Or, perhaps, you need to be honest with yourself about the discomfort and change your approach to it. Regardless, mentally running away from any lasting situation will not be of benefit. Bring your focus to the present and connect with what is causing you discomfort. As with studying a textbook, the highlighted areas are the ones that need more attention.