- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique
We know the definition, so how do we achieve it, and why is it important?
Mindfulness is achieved through the practice of meditation. When we take time out to sit and become conscious of our thoughts, and make a habit of doing this, we become increasingly aware. We become aware of their nature. The calm acknowledgement of our thoughts involves the process of thinking about how we think. In other words, during meditation, our mindfulness is the process of self-analysis. What exactly are we thinking about? Are there images that accompany these thoughts? How do they make me feel? Are they about the past, future or are they idle ramblings, with no obvious connections?
In terms of beginning to train the mind into becoming increasingly quiet and present, this kind of analysis, is very powerful
The more present we are the quieter the mind. When we think of it, when the mind is exactly in the now moment, it will be silent and still. This is for the simple reason, that in the present moment now, there is actually nothing happening except the mindfulness of life itself.
When thinking about the past, we are, on one level, attempting to relive it. We might even be trying to change how we feel about the past. Alternatively, it’s thoughts about future intentions, that make things happen, just before they do. Once we have no thoughts of this nature, the mind is quiet, still and resting. In time this is a very pleasant and comfortable place to be.
Initially the mind will be uncomfortable with such a stasis. We’ve become extremely used and conditioned to having very busy minds. We’re always running to the next thing. In this respect many habits can be tricky to break.
The action of thinking, analysing, plotting and planning has become habitual. We’re driven by our wants and needs and constantly processing such things. So, in order to become mindful, we begin by encouraging the mind to focus on only two or three things. We seek to exclude everything else; sidelining our needs and wants. We seek to break a habit.
We must always be accepting
As we identify the nature of our thoughts, they gently fade away, to be replaced with the awareness of what’s happening exactly now. This might include awareness of our breathing, the temperature in the room, and any sounds we can hear. It can take years to reach a point where our focus is only on one thing and the gaps between thoughts extended. True rest and awareness of now.
Practice of this encourages the mind to be present the majority of the time
Consider pondering on the observation I made earlier: in the now moment there is actually nothing happening except the mindfulness of life itself. The more we think of this the more interesting it becomes. Consider how, when sitting meditating, everything for you has stopped, whereas the rest of the world, carries on. The art of meditation is the art of stopping.
The world is still spinning and indeed travelling through the galaxy at thousands of miles an hour. People everywhere are getting on with their day. Just how aware are these other people? How much time are they taking to be aware and mindful of what’s going on around them?
Are others as aware of you, as you are of them, right now?
Not so long ago I noticed meditation and mindfulness described as a very self-centered and self-indulgent activity. This negative was meant to be discouraging. In reality, both meditation and the mindfulness it produces, are quite the opposite.
“Under the influence of awareness, you become more attentive, understanding, and loving, and your presence not only nourishes you and makes you lovelier, it enhances them as well” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Next Meditation to Mindfulness Workshop: Saturday, October 2nd, 10am – 4pm. Location: Dartmouth, Devon, TQ6 9ER