What is Mindfulness?
The power of being in the ‘here and now’
What is mindfulness? In today’s fast-paced world it’s not uncommon to find ourselves with no time for peace and happiness. We’re so engrossed in what needs to be done, should be done or should have been done that we don’t take time for being in the present, the “now”. Our minds are constantly bouncing from one thought to the next. We’re physically present but mentally we’re elsewhere, distracted from the moment that is “now”.
Distractions arise either through our internal dialogues or through external objects. With the advent of technology, our distractions have gone up significantly primarily due to cell phones, tablets, emails, texts, WhatsApp messages etc. In our fight for survival in a competitive world, our internal dialogues are diverting our minds to wander in our troubled past or uncertain future, taking away our sense of being in the present.
The moment we realize that both past events and future events are distractors, we are better equipped to concentrate on the present moment; our efficiency and effectiveness double and our tasks become more productive and effective.
This brings us to “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is the art of being in the present, the here and now. It’s emptying the mind of the “I need to’s” and “I should have’s” leaving only “what is”.
What does mindfulness feel like?
This state of “being in the now” is what the great artists achieve while creating their masterpieces. It is the prelude to the all-important “AHAA” moment philosophers and scientists all seek to achieve. It is the subconscious that comes out and “just does”.
Imagine walking on a worn path deep in a forest. All alone with nothing but the birds singing, the leaves rustling and perhaps a squirrel jumping along the branches. This is a moment of bliss in which you are not thinking, only observing. The squirrels are rustling the leaves and the birds are chirping. You are in the moment. This is mindfulness.
Unfortunately, our consciousness doesn’t like this idle state and will constantly try to interrupt the serenity with chaotic noise and unwanted thoughts.
One strange thing that can happen when you enter this state of mindfulness is you can become aware that your in that state and because your thinking about being in that state, you lose that state. A conundrum that can only be overcome by practice.
How does one practice mindfulness?
Here are some simple practices which can enable us to be more mindful and to maintain the state for longer periods of time.
When you wake up in the morning, spend a few minutes meditating. This could be in the form of breathing exercises or following a guided meditation.
While doing or performing any activity, just concentrate on the same and don’t let your mind wander elsewhere. For example, if you are brushing your teeth, observe the process, feel the brush and experience the overall activity.
Try not to overload yourself with a lot of information. Social media, in today’s age, provides a lot of information that is mostly noise. As far as possible, avoid your exposure to negative information during the early hours of your day. This includes reading newspapers in the morning as newspapers thrive on negative information, and the information you consume stays with you.
While at work whenever your mind is taking you to a past event or to some anticipated future event, bring it back and promise to spend time on the topic it is taking you to. Reserve sometime during the day when you could reflect upon these events with some constructive objective. This also means that you don’t let your mind wander on these events or topics again after you are done with reflecting.
Remind your mind that you have no control over the external world but only the inner world. People will not bend your way. You just need to accept this and not get angry with people or situations. When you get angry, your mind accelerates the thinking and becomes noisy.
Take regular pauses during the day. Close your eyes, focus on the emptiness of the mind, observe your breath. Be in this state for two or three minutes. This will help you recharge yourself and you will become much more effective, calmer and energetic.
This is the only time I’m going to suggest that during your mindfulness training that you be aware of something. It sounds counter-intuitive but it helps to be aware of what it feels like to become aware that you’re in that mindfulness state so that you can let that awareness drift away. With practice that “awareness” will become part of the subconscious that you don’t think about.
Nobody is expecting you to achieve a high level of enlightenment
When you’re reading about Mindfulness and trying to practice it, sometimes it can feel like you’re being asked to reach a higher plane of consciousness and ascend to new a mode of existence. I definitely feel that way sometimes. The thing is, everyone is human. Everyone gets caught up in the moment sometimes. The goal of practicing Mindfulness is that its practice. It’s okay if you aren’t actually doing it in every single moment. You’re just practicing for when it really matters.