self portrait central park, nov 2023 - cc usage with attribution - john mcelhenney

You Are Spending Time Thinking About What? #mindfulness or #busyness

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What do you fill your moments with? The moments in between? After you’ve completed a task and are contemplating your next trajectory? Pause. Breathe. Let your body and mind catch up.

Racing Away from Ourselves

I’m amazed at the attention addiction we all seem to have. It’s not just the phones, iPads, tiks and toks. Our culture values go go go get’em. And if they fall down and are hurt, fuck ’em. I don’t live that way, but I’m pressured to accelerate at every turn. Even when the mist is giving the streets a deathly sick sheen, I press the accelerator and engage the rumble of the Japanese turbocharger.

I am learning to slow my roll. (Maybe not in the car, to be honest.) I am cultivating the flow of thoughts streaming across the heads-up display of my mind. What do I want to be thinking about? What do I want to do next? How does my body feel? What does my soul need?

I notice I’m a contradiction. I always have been. I’m the football player in middle school also making straight a’s and writing short stories in my spare time. I’ve always been that guy. I often got the girl too. But, I think that might have been being raised by three women. I enjoy the company of women for all the reasons. Complicated by romance, I’ve had some flights and some falls.

What are you thinking about right now, reading this?

Let me guess:

  • The “work” you need to get done today
  • The chores required for the coming holiday season
  • The bills and how you’re going to pay for them
  • How can I be so tired in the morning
  • Why do I have a headache

Let’s begin a resetting of your internal programming.

You are not an *ai* or a supporting character. You are the show. This is the performance and not the rehearsal. I’m going to slow it down for you, if you’ll stay with me, just for a few minutes.

Reconnecting with Our Heart

Stop. Listen. Feel. Imagine. Note what thoughts take you away from this moment between us. And redirect your attention back to my words, to the sound of my voice.

What do want right at this moment? How does your body feel? Is there sadness or soreness? Describe your mood to yourself. And then have a conversation. It might go like this.

“I’m feeling a bit down this morning. Not sure what’s going on. I got to sleep at a decent hour. Maybe coffee will help.”

Brew coffee. Keep probing your body and mind for ideas, images, sounds, language, colors. Pay attention to what’s around you. The kitchen. The coffee pot. The smell of the elixir of life.

Pay attention to this. Moment. And this one.

“I’m liking the coffee and the conversation about mindfulness and all that, but I’ve got a ton of stuff to do today. The kids need to be roused, fed, and shipped off to school in 30 minutes. This is my quiet time. But I’m not feeling it. I am not inspired.”

Okay. Ennui. Let’s identify the mood.

“I’m bored. This routine is relentless. The holidays.”

Label the most prominent emotion or mood.


Got it. Now, let’s explore that one. Just listen. I’m going to tell you a story. (Don’t worry, it won’t take long.)

As we grow up we forget what makes us ecstaticly happy. We lose track of our favorite dinosaur. Our wonder at the universe and science and music and love and kids and…

Our culture tells us to get over it. We’re just being “sensitive.” Time to get up and make the biscuits and get the trains running on time. Make money. Make love. Make progress on the work projects. Make that sad or depressed feeling go away. Suppress the big feelings at all costs. We are running away from our own happiness without knowing it. Why? We’ve been told to grow up. We’ve taken on responsibilities for others and things we can’t possibly control. And we’re not paying attention to ourselves, we’re too busy paying attention and taking care of those around us.

Pause here.

What goes through your mind when I say these things? Are you feeling things? Feeling impatient? Okay.

Let’s revise our story just for today.

  • I can’t control others actions.
  • I must take responsibility for my own actions.
  • Moods are just parts of myself. I don’t have to pay attention to them.
  • I can take time to pause, breathe, and inhale the inner peace I deserve.

Here’s the exercise for your next 24 hours.

Notice the in-between-times. Pause in those transitions. A few seconds to breathe and ask yourself what’s the next best action for you. (Don’t judge your choices. Do notice them.) Then ask a question in that moment of pause: Is this next activity TOWARD my big goals or AWAY FROM them?

That’s the entire exercise. Notice how many times you subvert your own choices in sacrifice for others. Or how you tell yourself that reading a book of poetry is useless. Writing a poem? What, now I’m a poet?


You get to start choosing the second path more often in your life. You get to determine if the BAD MOOD is going to be a controlling influence or merely an indicator of what’s out of balance in your life. Listen to your body. What activities and thoughts light you up? What are you passionate about? What gives you energy? What feeds your dream? Your micro-dreams. And your B-HAG (BIG HARRY ASS GOAL.)

If you don’t know what your goals are, well… that’s a great place to start with your recovered time. In your pauses, ask, what’s my dream? What’s my my my goal? Where would I like to see myself in 5 – 10 – 20 years? Get a handle on just enough of those that you feel the positive pressure TOWARD the dream.

You will find, as you practice TO or AWAY you can start making more conscious choices about how you spend your precious time. Often, you will be required to make choices away from your goals. And you may be frustrated by this exercise. You don’t want to look at what’s keeping you from “GOING FOR IT.”

Pause in the moments in between. Listen for your soul. Take the next right action. Over time you can shape the arc of your life. This is a regenerative process. As you give a little more attention to your dreams, they become more important in your life. They begin to influence your thinking. You’re reading a poem and find yourself wanting to express yourself in a new way. You’re reading this and thinking… What?

What are you thinking now?

Okay, time to pause, breathe, and check in. I’ll go first.

I’m excited. I’m feeling aligned with my soul at the moment. Good music is playing on my television surround system. And today, I’m going to keep making positive choices and listening for what my heart is telling me. I hope you can find the time, flicker of inspiration, to do the same.

Okay, your turn. I noticed my Pinterest posts today as well. Yes, that’s a nice focus for now.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @wholeparent

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And I think you would love some of my books, give a look here AMAZON. And maybe this one would be a good start.

the little red book of mindfulness - john oakley mcelhenney

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