When I began meditating about a decade or more ago, I only knew meditation involves sitting in a full-lotus posture and bringing my mind to my breath under my nostrils. It was an instinctive act for me. One day I felt that my mind was running too fast, without gaps in my thoughts. I wanted it to stop to experience some reprieve. That was when I sat myself down and picked an object (in this case an electric plug) to stare at. I told myself that for ten minutes I was not going to think of anything except my awareness of the plug. That was a successful exercise because my mind stopped running and I felt rested and relieved. However, I did not know I was meditating, not to mention understanding what mindfulness is.
Training the Mind to Collect Itself
In this post, I will share my own personal journey as you would be able to find mindfulness definitions on many websites. Mindfulness is an experience of your consciousness. It is not a knowledge or a skill you pick up intellectually. Although mindfulness has been defined as being fully aware of the present moment, in all of your activities, you can only be mindful when you train your mind to stop.
When we listen to meditation apps with guidance and music, we are mostly calming our minds down. Meditation is when we sit down formally to lengthen the gaps in between thoughts. So you see, mindfulness and meditation work together. As a beginner, you learn to first calm the mind with meditation. When the mind is used to being in the present, mindfulness becomes easier.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
Many people think that mindfulness is to be fully absorbed in the activity you are in. I had a friend tell me that she thinks mindfulness is fully experiencing the taste of the food she is eating. Or being fully immersed with the beautiful scenery in front of you. But it is not. Instead of being carried away by the taste of the food – whether it is good or bad – your consciousness is aware of the mind’s commentary. The mind comments on the taste of the food, the look of a dress, the weather, and many things. Mindfulness helps us recognize the patterns of our mind swinging between extremes of good and bad, likes, and dislikes. We also notice its neutral state, waiting to pounce on something to make an inner commentary.
The mind could be likened to a spider waiting in the middle of its web. When it feels an insect’s vibration on the net, it runs quickly to the insect to trap it with its web. Similarly, when a sound, taste or touch catches our attention, our mind runs out quickly to start making stories. The story could be from the past or about the future. Though the truth is, the past and the future can only live in the now.
Why Bother Practising Mindfulness?
If your mind is sufficiently stable enough to notice how your mind’s attention is taken away, you will notice how it makes you feel. When do you feel stress when do you feel pleasure? How the feeling of fun quickly ends and you could feel empty after. Or the feeling of emptiness when you lose a loved one. And to cure this empty feeling, you may seek something more – such as meeting your friends again, going on an exotic trip and etc. None of these are wrong. But it matters when you notice how the mind is always seeking and discontented. How this discontentment brings about a lack of well-being. The constant seeking and exploitation of resources also contribute to climate change and pollution.
Having space in your mind, awakening your consciousness helps you see the effect you have on your surroundings and in yourself. Sometimes we may have lurking beliefs of ourselves as failures. This prevents us from acting positively to, for example, make an effort to find a way out of a job loss or other potentials you may have.
When the Mind is Collected, there is Wellness
When your ability to stay in the present strengthens, you stop giving in to the mind’s demands. To get to a strong practice, you must learn to just notice and not get involved in the taste of the food for example. All you have to do is to know there is a taste. When you see beautiful scenery, just know there is the seeing of a scene. Know that the mind is commenting on it. Once you get absorbed and talk about the taste of the food or the scenery, mindfulness is lost.
It sounds like a difficult practice. But you do get better at it with discipline. Mindfulness is an active meditation in daily life. It does not require you to cut out all the activities you enjoy in your life. But overwhelming activities and constant talking do impede the practice. Life is short. Life is also uncertain. The only certainty is a strength of mind when there is adversity. But for most of us, there is mostly confusion of mind in times of uncertainty. We can see this in ourselves during the pandemic, the cabin fever, and anxiety arising from our environment and situation. This affects everyone of every social class. The only thing we share is our ability to see and understand our mind through mindfulness.
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