Quick summary – Mindfulness is a state of existence in which 100% of your consciousness is on the present moment (as opposed to the past or the future). It is characterized as being a state which is free from judgment in which you engage your environment with a childlike curiosity and innocents – you see the world as novel. The benefits include a greater awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection, reduction in suffering, reducation of stress and anxiety (which tend to be the result of the mind’s fixation on the future or the past) and an ability to experience the present moment with the full richness of your senses. Many would suggest that a state of perpetual mindfulness is the gift of enlightenment.
The observer – who or what is being mindful? Answer these questions to understand what you subjectively believe to be the difference between the thinker and the observer.
* What or who produces the thoughts in your head?
* Can you control all the thoughts in you head?
* Who is it that is noticing or observing the thoughts and images in your head?
* Are you the creator of your thoughts, the observer of your thoughts, something different (you are the consciousness (or part of a collective consciousness) which is conscious of your existence’s apparent consciousness) both (you create your thoughts and observe them, or neither (your mind (or God or a greater energy etc) creates the thoughts and observes them, and you have no control over either)?
Everyone will answer these questions differently and this process tends to give you insight into your theoretical, philosophical or spiritual orientation.
In a state of Mindfulness you are simply the observer - you accept yourself separate from your mind and body along with all of ‘your’ emotions, judgments, preferences, beliefs, knowledge and character traits etc. (don’t worry you get to keep them if you want them – on my best days I tend to be in a state of mindfulness perhaps 10 – 30 percent of the time depending on my setting and my activity.)
- In such a sate you are aware of your senses, emotions, and thoughts without being controlled by them.
What’s the point of being present of being mindful?
To give your self peace from an over functioning mind – I personally have one of those minds that is a bit overactive – I am constantly thinking about random scenarios, creative projects, things to do, blog ideas, future plans, relationship variables or trying to come up with solutions to problems that have little to do with me etc. I have been very fond of mindfulness practices as they quiet my mind so that I can enjoy my current setting as opposed to the constant chatter of my mind.
To reduce suffering, stress and anxiety – the majority of suffering, stress and anxiety are not actually taking place in this exact current moment (in the present moment). It is the mind which imposes memories of suffering to add conflict to the present moment. It is the mind which tells you what you ‘should do’, ‘have to do’, or ‘didn’t do well’ etc that stirs up stress and anxiety when there is nothing in the present moment to evoke such a response.
It frees you to see the novelty, beauty and uniqueness of stimuli in your current setting – our mind categorizes our environment for survival purposes – we therefore unconsciously label most things as benign, unimportant, not interesting, ordinary, boring, or uneventful etc and we therefore to not attend to the vast majority of what is happening in our current setting. Being mindful gives you that artistic eye which lets you appreciate the subtle beauty of most everything.
What would be an example of a person experiencing mindfulness?
Children – why do the kids seem to notice the weird looking bug that you almost stepped on, how were they able to find that perfectly heart shaped rock, and why are many of them so happy to stick their hand in and out of the sand for an extended period of time? The answer is that children tend to be very present – they do not yet have minds filled with chatter about what they should do or could do and their world quite literally is novel to them– and as such, they are much more observant of what is going on (marketing directed towards kids has not helped this – if you take a child to a grocery store they can lose themselves to ‘wanting’ – which is a future focus). Though it might be hard to believe – you too can re-experience the bliss of a childlike view of the world by practicing mindfulness.
Do I have to do all that yoga and meditation? – Though these practices are very helpful and will perhaps augment or enhance your ability to be mindful – you can be mindful without practicing those two disciplines.
- Both yoga and meditation tend to have the result of creating a state of mindfulness.
- Practices in which you are focusing on the breath tend to increase mindfulness as your mind is given the task to breath which frees up your consciousness to focus on your surroundings.
How do I ‘not judge” – Observe that your mind in creating judgments and accept that is happening while turning your attention back to observation.
- Some people with mentally objectify their thoughts as a way of separating their thoughts from the observer – ex. they will imagine their thoughts to be clouds floating through the sky.
- This is indeed one of the hardest aspects of mindfulness, and most medication practices for that matter.
- Resistance tends to make things worse – (tell yourself not to think about a certain subject… now your thinking about it).
- There is also an inherent double bind- you are judging yourself concerning your ability to avoid judgment.
- Accept your judgments and free yourself to be separate from them – simply notice them as opposed to reacting to them (resisting your judgments would be a reaction).
“Have I ever been in a state of mindfulness as an adult?” – Most likely you experience multiple moments of mindfulness everyday.
- Often when people use the word surreal – they are describing a moment of mindfulness.
- We also tend to be more mindful in situations that are new to us –if you are visiting a culture which is very different from yours.
- In traumatic or life threatening situations you will likely become hyper sensitive to your environment (though you will sometimes still be controlled by your thoughts and emotions).
My future blogs will offer techniques to help you to arrive in a state of mindfulness.