Here is a short article designed to introduce you to the topic of mindfulness. This notion stems from many ancient eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, Zen, Yoga, and Hinduism. As humans, it is our sincerest desire to be at peace with our inner dialogue and to love everyone and everything for the miracles that they are. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for cultivating this sort of life.
“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.” – Alan W. Watts
Be Here Now – The present moment is the only moment that we have. If you are continually dwelling on the past or the future, you cannot pay attention to what is. Being out of the now will affect the richness and quality of your life.
“Be there truly. Be there with 100 percent of yourself. In every moment of your daily life. That is the essence of true Buddhist meditation. That is why I like to define mindfulness as the energy that helps us to be there 100 percent. It is the energy of your true presence.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation – Like weight training, we must deploy a practice to strengthen our mind toward residing in the present moment. Meditation is the practice of focusing intently on the here and now. Usually, some object of meditation is utilised as a focus (Eg. breath, candle, or mantra). By cultivating a meditation practice during the first few minutes of your day, you will be more likely to be connected with your true inner self through the day.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Awareness – Mindfulness is an extreme sense of awareness. We can observe our thoughts and actions along with the feelings and emotions of others. By focusing on remaining in this center of consciousness, we can ensure that our efforts will not propagate suffering. We can realise the world for all of its beauty and wonder. We can recognise the miracle that it is to be alive.
“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, flower blooms.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
Letting Go – The root of suffering is in attachment. The nature of reality is that everything is transient. When we cling to transients our lives become like a ship in a stormy sea. When we let go, we can live from a place similar to deep under the sea. Like deep within the sea, deep within us is a place of stillness that is disrupted by no storms.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Empathy – We as humans have the innate ability to feel and understand the emotional condition of another. Practicing mindfulness allows us to express understanding. Understanding will enable us to be kind to others as we know that we are all suffering to some degree and it is our purpose to reduce that suffering.
“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius
Compassion – Mindfulness allows us to live with empathy which is the seed of compassion. The human condition is to suffer, and mindfulness is the practice of reducing that suffering. By working on our internal pain, we can be sure not to propagate it all the while becoming caring and benevolent.
“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Practice – Like a muscle, mindfulness is something that we must practice at all times. Times in which we do not believe that we need to practice are the most important. It is easy to be mindful when the world around us is calm and tranquil. We must exercise sincerely in these times so that when the world around us inevitably becomes chaotic, we can remain in this internal place of stillness.
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” – Aristotle
Judgement – Underneath any manifestation of lack is judgment. Judgement allows us to put ourselves before others. It enables us to label things as good or bad, to be happy or sad. It allows us to blame instead of accept. Judgement along with attachment form the deep roots of all of humanity’s suffering.
“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare
No Gaining – In the end, there is no gaining. We cannot take anything with us. We are here for a brief period. Any material things (life, money, possessions, friends, family, etc.) will vanish into dust and will become the raw material for the next cycle. Looking at the end is in no way a pessimistic view; this is clarifying. Death is around the corner, and in our society, we deny this in so many ways. We must face this fact to help us to stay genuinely mindful and in the present moment.
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain
No Guru – Awakening to mindfulness is a personal and internal shift. Ram Dass put it succinctly: “When you know how to listen, everyone is the Guru.” What you will find is that you only need as much help and knowledge as you think you do. When you realise the point is to live fully in the here and now accepting everything just the way it is, there is nothing else you can do.
“Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.” – Alan W. Watts
Finally, as we begin to practice mindfulness, we will start to see ourselves for who we are. Keeping conscious attention on our automatic and unconscious reactions is essential. We often default to anger, jealousy, rage or guilt. Treat yourself with infinite love, patience, respect and awareness and these dark feelings and emotions will not be able to survive this light.