Many people tend to think of mindfulness as a “Buddhist Thing.” That’s like saying logic is a “Man Thing.” Both are common misconceptions.
Undoubtedly, Buddhists have mastered the art of mindfulness. And the influx of many traditionally eastern practices, such as mindfulness meditation, into western culture has expanded our willingness to explore new ways to become more mindful. But Buddhists have not cornered the market on mindfulness. It’s kind of a human thing, not a “Buddhist Thing.”
Mindfulness is a state of being: a level of conscious awareness that takes us behind the mind to a place where we can observe our thoughts and feelings.
This is my own adaptation of the definition of mindfulness and you will notice that it does not include the word “present.” To be fully in the moment, to be present with your thoughts and observations, you must place all of your awareness in that moment . . . with all the thoughts that accompany it. When I am referring to mindfulness, I am referring to the state of being that occurs after you become present with your thoughts and feelings enough to actually take your awareness behind them. First presence; then mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the point of view. What is it that is perceiving from this higher point of view? Well, that is the question even the Buddhists are still working on answering. Isn’t it? I consider it the spirit, which is a knower not a thinker. Whatever it is or whatever it might be called, it exists as a part of every single human being on the planet. And we can each connect to that higher part of us that is the knower. It is a matter of willingness, not of will. But it does take practice.
When we are being mindful, we are aware of our thoughts as we are thinking them. We are in tune with what is happening on every level of our being (at least of our human being). And we are more effective choice makers.
If you don’t know what you’re thinking until the moment of decision passes, then haven’t you missed the opportunity to be a fully conscious choice maker? By my estimation, the answer is “yes, you have.” You’ve allowed the thoughts that were floating or flying through your mind at that moment to decide for you. How often has that been fertile ground for regret?
The better option is to develop your ability to be mindful and to try to be as mindful as you can be in your every day life.
Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to build the consciousness muscles that are necessary for incorporating mindfulness into your everyday experiences. And getting to the point where you can practice mindfulness, whenever and wherever your mind might be, is the true goal of mindfulness meditation. After all, most of Life doesn’t happen on the meditation pillow. It happens in our experiences ~ the ones that unfold throughout the day, as we are going about the business of living Life.
Don’t we all want to be able to make good and wise choices: choices that are more harmonious reflections of our whole Self (not just projections of various parts of us)?
Mindfulness is the mechanism by which we can make wiser, more constructive choices about the thoughts we will accept and the ones we will reject, the things we will say and when we will remain silent, and what we will do when the moment to act arises. It is, afterall, from all these things that the circumstances of our lives get created.
So, if you are interested in becoming more mindful, I want to encourage you to start getting serious about it today. Jon Kabat-Zinn does good work on mindfulness, and he is an expert on using mindfulness meditation to reduce stress. You can also start viewing any of the many breathing meditations and mindfulness meditations that are available via Youtube.com. Once you get an idea of how to go about developing mindfulness, start practicing mindfulness techniques each day. Do it in whatever way feels most comfortable to you. I find that time in nature is one of the easiest and most effective ways to calm the mind and get behind it. But find what works best for you.
It is in the doing that we become masters of anything.
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