In a café, a woman is busy scrolling through her phone that she did not hear her boyfriend praise her looks. In another setting, a father playing basketball with his young son missed seeing his first-ever three-point shot because he got distracted for a few seconds.
We see versions of these moments all the time, sometimes they even happen to us. These are moments that pass us by because we are preoccupied and inattentive to the present moment. And most of the time, when we miss them, they are gone forever.
This aligns with the results of scientific studies that have found that people who are focused on the present moment are happier than those who have wandering minds. The same study states that almost half of the time (47%), our minds really do wander—no matter what we may be doing. But when we focus our minds, we are slowing things down and noticing every aspect of the situation at hand. This allows us to appreciate things more, to enjoy experiences, and to notice the happy incidents.
Mindfulness meditation does not just help us recognize moments of happiness in our lives, it also teaches us to accept things as they are. This means that we are able to see them with kindness, not judging them or clinging on to them. For example, we learn to accept the realities of a breakup even when it’s painful because we know that it’s a natural part of life. A mindfulness practitioner does not worry about negative feelings or situations because he or she has learned how to be okay with what is, and has learned how to not focus on what isn’t.
Mindfulness practice liberates us from the desire to be always in control. We can let go and relax—focus on our partner as we enjoy coffee with them, concentrate on our child as he learns how to play ball, come to terms with the pain of a relationship that has ended. True happiness should not and does not depend on our external experiences. Masters and gurus have been teaching this. Real happiness is internal—it rests on the clarity of our minds and the state of our consciousness.