Mindfulness as a behavioural experience has many gifts to offer those who practice. Mindfulness is far more than a calming meditation practice. It is a way of finding the present moment, which is all there truly is for us to live in. If we are not present, we are lost in thinking. We are physically and emotionally experiencing things that are not actually happening. There is valuable place for the past and future within the present moment, but all too often it becomes our present moment, pushing away life as it is happening before us.
Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to the present moment. You can do this by choosing any aspect of your present moment experience and exploring it through your awareness. You can also practice mindfulness by simply tunning into what you notice in the present moment as it happens. We tune into the present moment through our perception of it. This is through our sensory experiences, the brain, and our emotional responses. To say that another way, the present moment is made of what we feel in the body, the thoughts, and the emotions. In mindful moments of life, we are suddenly given the gift of experiencing ourselves, not the body, brain, and emotional parts, but the one who experiences these. Here is where everything changes. Particularly, in moments of deep suffering, we see ourselves as suffering and find a new sense of compassion for ourselves, in this wild and crazy life we are living.
So how do you become more mindful? The formula is simple Intention + Practice. It is in the execution of this formula that we find the struggle. We do not live in a culture that prepares us for these behaviours. In fact, we don’t really have to even practice hard to learn anything anymore… just ask Siri!
So where to begin?
A great place to start is by trying on a new mind, the BEGINNERS MIND. The beginners mind looks at something with interest and curiosity. It is patient and has endless possibility. It is like erasing all preconception and giving new life to experience. The next time look out the window, try seeing if you can look around at what you see and notice, really notice, what is there. Don’t rush, and don’t think, instead see. Notice the colours, the movement, the specific shapes, and lines. With this mindset you may also notice the tendency for the mind to wander off into stories and questions which helps to introduce you to the way your thinking works. All this new observing of experience is the beginners mind, a refreshing way of interacting with experience.
Mindfulness also includes learning to be aware of your experience. This is counter-intuitive to the common myth that mindfulness means finding peace and calm. Awareness is neither calm nor the storm, it is simply what is happening. Awareness has nothing to do with judgement and striving for something different. It is knowing what is regardless if it is wanted or unwanted. It is getting to know all our experience and learning about it. Awareness takes courage, patience, compassion, and practice. Again, we are touching on the power of mindfulness. We are cultivating aspects of ourselves (courage, patience, compassion) that have the potential to make profound impacts on our shared human experience.
Awareness leads to acceptance. Acceptance of our present moment experience. Instead of running, hiding, and denying, we learn to face what needs to be faced, in ourselves and in others. We accept what is, and from here can make the wise, and informed decision, about how to stay here or make a needed change for ourselves. Acceptance is another invaluable human characteristic that leads to a diverse appreciation for all human experiences and expressions. Helping us move closer to a more unified and understanding experience together.
When we are present and mindful, we also learn to let go of the endless striving that we can get caught up in this rat race of life. Always trying to accomplish the next task, making meaning out of nothing. Noticing how we truly are experiencing our reality helps us relate differently to life, deciding more accurately what is important to us and what is not. We learn to place our energy where it will benefit ourselves, and others, instead of getting caught up in the pointless time-wasting that our thinking decides is important. Really though, pay attention to your thoughts sometimes and you will see why it is valuable to stop allowing them to run the show.
I have been blessed in this life in so many ways. One of them being that I have been given the gift of mindfulness. It came by way of suffering, which makes it a uniquely special gift. I do hope I have the pleasure of sharing the gift of mindfulness in some way with all of you at some point on this journey.
May you be well,