WHAT ON EARTH IS MINDFULNESS?
Discovering the magic of living in the ‘here and now’.
Woo hoo! Welcome to week 3!
Are you ready to move on to the next phase of your meditation journey?
Would you like to discover what mindfulness is? Want to find out why it’s so important? Are you ready to bring it into your life – every day – easily helping you to feel calmer, happier and less stressed?
Being mindful is a state of being – a particular way of choosing to experience life, in the present moment.
Normally we let our mind run riot over past mistakes and get its knickers in a twist over future worries, whilst half sleep-walking our way through what is actually going on around us.
We’re normally too busy being ‘mind-full’ to be ‘mindful’.
Are you too ‘mind-full’?
Here are some common symptoms of ‘mindlessness’ or being ‘mind-full’.
- Do you find yourself ‘listening’ to someone, whilst thinking about your response?
- Do you realise you didn’t really hear what they were saying?
- Do you find yourself getting to the bottom of a cup of tea or coffee, without remembering drinking it?
- Do you forget where you put things?
- Do you walk into a room, but don’t remember why you went there?
- Do you find yourself arriving at a destination, but not remembering the route you took?
- Do you find it hard to remember people’s names?
All of these – and plenty more – are symptoms of a mind so full of yesterday, tomorrow and ‘what ifs’, that it can’t enjoy the present moment.
What’s the problem with ‘mindlessness’?
The ‘present moment’ – ‘here and now’: it’s the only time you have.
Yesterday is done and dusted. Tomorrow isn’t here yet. If you want to actually live your life, then now is the only time you can do it. Want to make changes in the future? Then you need to do them now. Want to create a past that you’re proud of? Then you need to take action now.
But that’s tough, when we don’t even notice eating our breakfast or driving to work!
Being mindful means dragging ourselves back into the present moment – away from the ‘to do’ list, the housework, next week’s big meeting, last week’s presentation and everything else that normally fills our mind to bursting point.
Are you too busy pretending you’re a ‘human doing’ to be a ‘human being’?
We might feel scared that, by being in the present moment, the ‘to do’ list will get forgotten; the shopping won’t get done; the kids won’t get fed. (Don’t worry – they’ll remind you!) But, in fact, it’s the other way round.
By focussing our experience right here, right now, we can develop a clarity that somehow creates more time in our day, meaning the ‘to do’ list gets shorter and becomes less of an obsession.
When you are totally aware of what you are doing – ‘doing with awareness’ – it’s amazing how much more easily life flows.
By getting back into the ‘now’, we can start to reconnect with the part of us that makes the unconscious choices about how to think, feel and act, in every single moment. We start to experience the truth of life, rather than the story, stress and drama. We get our thoughts, feelings and actions back under conscious control, breaking long-held habits of automatic responses to what psychologists call ‘stimuli’, but the rest of us call ‘difficult people’ or ‘stressful situations’.
What exactly is mindfulness?
I’m going to give you a practical definition of what mindfulness is, rather than a spiritual or religious definition:
Mindfulness is about actually experiencing life, while you’re living it.
We tend to spend most of our time running away from our experience of life – hiding from it – because the stories our Monkey Mind tells us create pain. Mindfulness is about being present to your experience of life, as it truly is, rather than wanting to change it or believing the drama and the stories.
As Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist Master, tells us:
“To be mindful means to be here, fully present, and fully alive, unencumbered by thoughts of the past or the future, our worries or our projects. It is only when we stop that we can encounter life.”
As a meditation technique, mindfulness is about using your focus and concentration to be aware of the present moment, rather than being lost in the future or worrying about the past. However it’s not about pretending that there wasn’t a future or a past. It’s about drawing your awareness back into your physical body and experiencing life through all of your senses; being truly present.
It is the kind of experience you get when you look into somebody’s eyes and you really connect. You know that they’re there and so are you. Rather than talking to them whilst maybe thinking about your shopping list and what you have got to cook for dinner, you’re really ‘present’ with them.
Mindfulness is about living life as the sensory experience that it really is, in our physical bodies, rather than being stuck in our thinking mind. It’s ideal for a multi-tasking mind, because it gives your mind something to do! It gets to help run the process of ‘being here’.
- actually tasting your tea, as you drink it
- really feeling that cuddle
- really hearing the birdsong
- really smelling your coffee
- really seeing the beauty of the sun, peeping through the clouds
- really hearing what a loved-one is saying – and seeing the look in their face, when they know they have been heard
- actually feeling the comfort of your clothes on your body
- feeling your feet connect with the earth, with every step
Why settle for half-living?
The back of my business cards has a provocative quote, that sometimes gets me into trouble… It is:
Just because you’re breathing, it doesn’t mean you’re alive.
But it sums up beautifully the difference between a life that is lived from the position of the Monkey Mind and a life that is lived with awareness – mindfully.
Mindfulness can bring your experience of life alive.
It is something you can do at any time, in any place, it feels great – and it’s free – wow!
One of the great bonuses of mindfulness is that, as you become more familiar with how to practise it, it doesn’t take up any extra time. You can do it wherever and whenever you want to, no matter how busy you are. Plus it can help you de-stress, calm down, feel more relaxed, consciously choose your experience of life and set yourself free from living on auto-pilot.
The power of mindfulness to change the way we think, feel and behave is so strong that even traditional medical doctors are now using mindfulness to help people who are suffering from clinical depression. Universities are researching it. Mindfulness is also used in the training for all sorts of sports, where athletes really need moment-to-moment concentration and focus.
Imagine living your day actually being ‘here’ rather than, as I often call it, off on another planet or off with the fairies!
Mindfulness is an amazing de-stressing, relaxation technique, which comes with the added bonus that it makes life come to life.
Want to give it a go?
This week’s meditation guides you through silent sitting, which is one way of experiencing mindfulness.
You’ll find the week 3 meditation here.
The messages this week will help you discover and experiment with techniques that you can weave into your daily life, if you so choose.
As with all of these techniques, the key is consistent, but relaxed, practice – remember the abhyasa (Day 12)? Play with these techniques, rather than forcing them. Notice your mind’s objections (mindfulness helps to calm a chattering mind), but don’t engage with the story.
In week one, we practised becoming grounded and simple breathing awareness – both of which are actually mindfulness techniques. In week two, we practised ‘thought awareness’ and playing gently with letting our thoughts pass through our minds, rather than clinging to them. This is another mindfulness technique. These two weeks have been important preparation for increasing your awareness of your physical, emotional and mind states, to help you get ready for impacting them, consciously, through mindful practices. The relaxation and stillness you have been cultivating are essential foundations to make mindfulness easier for you.
This week you will still be doing a (new) ten minute silent sitting meditation, and you’ll also get the opportunity to bring your meditation – your mindfulness – into all your activities, if you want to. Even tasks like walking across the car park at work or doing the laundry can become a playground for practising being mindful. And the more you play with it, the more you will feel radiantly alive.
I can’t promise to make you a mindfulness expert in the next seven days, but it is my deepest wish that you feel inspired by some of what we cover and start a journey of mindfulness practice that could change your life.
When you have experienced this week’s meditation, how about checking out this bonus article on the bell it uses.
Day 15 Affirmation
In this moment, I choose to feel truly alive.
P. S. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing one of my favourite ‘do it anywhere’ mindfulness techniques.
P.P.S. The key links you need for week three are:
Week 3 Meditation: