Mindfulness is a word that is gaining more exposure these days as our mental and spiritual wellbeing is openly considered as an integral part of our overall health according to both medical experts as well as psychologists and spiritual healers. Mindfulness can mean different things to different people, but in general refers to the state or quality of being where one is consciously aware, whether that be of an object, feeling, state of mind or energy. Mindfulness is also an important element of some religious practices such as Buddhism and Taoism, while also retaining its more secular meaning as synonymous for “being careful,” “wary” or “alert.
For many people, mindfulness is another way of being totally in the present moment, resting in the “now,” as opposed to being a passive bystander in our lives. It can be seen as an active state whereby you are open to the present moment, observing without judgement or commentary. In contrast to what the anatomy of the word suggests, rather than your mind being “full,” it suggests a vastness or emptiness within which the acceptance of what is can be observed. Mindfulness is not passive or dreamy, but active, awake and alert, allowing experience to flow before the presence of awareness or consciousness itself.
Becoming aware of the “mind-less-ness” moments in our lives is a good place to start on our journey towards “mind-ful-ness” as we begin to note those “blackhole” periods when time seems to have disappeared, like for instance when you start a journey and before you know it you have arrived and you can’t remember anything specific about the journey. Those moments when we are working on automatic, absent from our lives either daydreaming, worrying, planning or judging.
One way to start become more aware is to try to include something new each day. Maybe that means brushing your teeth with the opposite hand than you are accustomed or getting out of bed on the other side. Breaking routine helps us to become more conscious of each moment. Avoiding so much multi-tasking is another way to stay present. As one zen master claimed, meditation can be seen as doing one thing at a time — whether that means focusing on washing the dishes or eating your lunch without planning, worrying or daydreaming — dedicating your focus on the action at hand is one step closer to mindfulness.
Meditation practice can also help us to become more mindful in our daily lives. As we become more comfortable with the silence and peace of our inner being, we can allow that sense of being pervade all our actions. Meditations that use mantras or strict breathing patterns can help to establish a structure that we can use in our day to day encounters with the material world. Often, the simple act of taking a deep breath or repeating a positive affirmation can bring us back to mindfulness throughout our day.
So, next time you feel the stress of modern living, take a moment to focus on your breath, be mindful of your thoughts, feelings and actions and allow them to simply be without judgement or commentary. Remember that you are not your thoughts; your are not your feelings; you are not your actions. You are that which observes these phenomenon within yourself. Enjoy yourself from that position and mindfulness becomes a byproduct rather than a technique.