Mindfulness is a state of awareness. Where we can observe, without judgment, the thoughts and feelings that we experience as humans in response to the world that we live in.
And a state in which we can become aware of the fact that our thoughts and feelings are nothing more than conditioned responses to temporary or impermanent objects that have no more value than that which we ourselves place on them.
That is to say, (actually Shakespeare said it first in As You Like It) “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players”. None of this is any more real than the acting in a stage play and mindfulness helps us to understand this.
We are able to observe, to actually take note of and be aware of our thoughts when we are in a state of mindfulness. That is, rather than being caught up in our thoughts, experiencing the ‘full catastrophe’ of emotion and fantasy that goes along with many of our thoughts, with mindfulness we are able to watch the occurrences of our minds as if it were on tv, as if we were merely watching rather than acting.
It helps a lot to think of our thoughts as actions, as something we do rather than something that just happens in us, or to us for that matter. This way we can develop control over our thoughts and feelings. If thinking that “I hate my job” is something that I chose to do, an action I perform, it is much easier to find a way of re-framing this thought or to actually do something about it. Instead, once I am aware that I have a habit of thinking loathsome thoughts about work on Monday mornings, I can stop this behaviour and replace it with a new one, one that doesn’t put me in such a bad mood which I might then take out on my fellow workers. So I become aware of this habitual thought, and then I start thinking “I will go to work today so I can save for my trip to Bali and tonight I will search online for vacancies that might suit me” or something else useful and uplifting – you get the point.
Once we are able to become aware of our habitual thoughts through mindfulness we can then change the way we think about things and begin to actually choose the way we experience the world. Personally, I find that quite profound, that each of us has the potential to be able to choose the way we experience the world, the way we react to people and situations around us – I see it as an attainable super-power :o) Like Neo in The Matrix, at the end of the movie even bullets can’t kill him because he has decided they can’t hurt him – he believes.
Remember that 80’s song ‘Can’t touch this”? (ok, bad example…but anyway), Mindfulness helps us attain this state – where no matter what is going on around us, who is trying desperately to upset us, or that a cyclone has just come through and wiped out every material possession we once had (my thoughts are with all Australians affected by cyclones and floods), we can be resilient, we can find meaning and reason to continue and somehow, maybe, even be stronger for it. This is what mindfulness can do for you – give you the ability to stand strong, resilient and calm regardless of what life throws at you.
How to learn mindfulness?
Three steps towards a mindfulness practice::
1. learn to do a body scan relaxation
2. learn breath awareness meditation
3. deepen your practice through sitting mindfulness meditation
You can Google any of these techniques and find some great work by people happy to share for free.
With time and practice these techniques will start to drift into your everyday life, you will think of them at your desk or on the bus. You will practice them in the shower and in bed, you will find yourself eating sultanas one-by-one and eventually you will be living mindfully – it wont happen over night… :o)
With metta (loving kindness)