Mindfulness: A discipline of separation from the mind where one enters a space of void with full awareness and presence.
If you observe yourself at any given moment, you may notice a number of different experiences occupying and dividing your attention:
Anticipating futures both immediate and distant
You notice the way people hop onto their smartphones the moment they have a second to themselves? Or feel compelled to listen to music to pass the time on the subway or on their walks?
All of this has two primary effects:
- We put more attention on the mind than our living presence here and now.
- We divide our attention between many things to cover up our fractured feelings and states of mind.
Therefore mindfulness has two primary aims:
- To bring our attention away from the mind’s churnings and into this moment.
- To unify our attention into a sense of peaceful wholeness.
This is all difficult to explain to a person who hasn’t experienced it yet for themselves. But with self-attention and practice, you will get a better sense of what I mean. Daily meditation drastically helps a person to discover how to practice mindfulness.
Here are a few tricks/entry points into practicing mindfulness:
- Inhabit your body fully. We jerk our bodies around throughout the day in graceless ways, rushing and reacting. Instead, slow down. Don’t rush. Pervade your body with your gentle attention. Like a tennis player waiting for the ball to be served or an outfielder waiting to catch a fly ball. Be focused but relaxed and totally attentive to your body. This gives you a greater spacious sense of existence and also helps you to have a better place from which to observe the mind’s thoughts without being overtaken and consumed by them.
- Ride your breath. This is my primary form of mindfulness. When I catch myself rushing, getting overcome by a negative emotion, or losing my sense of presence to my mind’s thoughts, I take a few deep breaths. Remember that a full exhale is necessary for a full inhale. I find that my breathing sets the tempo for my mind and heart.
- Mentally repeat a mantra. Instead of listening to music on your morning commute or walk to class or whatever, intone a mantra to yourself. Sing it in the car while being present with your driving or repeat it in your head as you stride along. When you catch your attention wandering, bring it back to the mantra. This is especially good for beginners.
Give it a try. One of the reasons I often wear meditation beads is that it is a reminder to practice mindfulness throughout the day. It is easy to forget and become overtaken by the day’s happenings.
All of this will improve your quality of life, your insight into yourself and the world around you, and it will work on you in mysterious ways you have yet to consider. A sense of the miraculous in the most simple of things will return to you. In a way, it is like a return to childlike innocence and joy.