When I asked a friend of mine how he was doing he told me, “I have been playing with this concept that I call the equity of interest.” What is that?” I asked. “It means that I am placing a premium value on the present moment through listening, engaging, absorbing and having quality communication.” I thought about it for a moment and then said, “That is genius!”
Think about it for a moment. What is that you place a premium value on? For most of us it is the future. Things that we will do, things that we will accomplish, dreams that we will realize, the way things will eventually be. Most of us are continually placing a premium value on the future. Some of us place a premium value on the past as well. What happened back then, the way things were, the difficulties we experienced. But very few people seem to place a premium value on right now. But if my friend, numerous meditation practitioners and every mindfulness teacher I have ever met or read are correct, then investing fully in the present moment will give back the greatest returns.
There is a concept called the hedonic treadmill. What this concept explains is that no matter how rich or successful or in love you become in the future, you will return to your happiness baseline within a year. So whatever your happiness baseline is now, is where you will return to no matter what wonderful or terrible things happen to you in the future. The point of mindfulness practice is to increase your happiness baseline in the present moment so that no matter what happens to you in the future you will be ok.
Your mind takes its shape by what it repeatedly rests upon. What you continually and habitually think about throughout the day is creating your mind state. You are the one continually creating your happiness baseline through what you repeatedly think about. It takes zero effort for the brain to retain and become fixated upon negative experience. However, for the brain to retain positive experience it takes a bit of effort on our part.
Normally when we have a positive experience we let it run through us like water. Someone tells us we look nice or we have a good exchange with another person and we immediately let it go and are on to thinking about the next (usually negative) thing. However, when we have a negative experience we remain fixated on it for hours, days and sometimes years. In order to increase your happiness baseline by placing a premium value on the present moment this requires being mindful or aware of the experience you are having in the present moment.
When we are mindful of the positive experience that we are having, we can then slow down and allow ourself to experience it fully. What a lot of the neurobiological research says is that in order for the brain to absorb positive experience so that these experiences have lasting value for us, we need to become aware of the positive experience and then let it sink in for about ten to fifteen seconds before moving on to the next thing.
The next time someone pays you a compliment, you eat or drink something that tastes good, you notice someone smiling at you, someone thanks you, you have a pleasant interaction or you notice something beautiful- see if you can just stop and let this experience sink in for about ten to fifteen seconds before discarding it and moving on. If you are able to do this five or more times each day, you will change your neural functioning by creating positive memories in your brain. I know of no medication more powerful than the long term neurological benefits of doing this day by day.
Through the practice of mindfulness we are able to slow down enough so that we can allow our brains to receive and internalize the beneficial experiences that we all have (however small and fleeting) each day that we are alive. By doing this we are placing a premium value on the present moment.