An Extract from my blog, Mindfulness in the Real World: The Art of Mindful Living.
The most effective way of lifting the veil of our conditioning is to honour the present moment. This is something we can all do at any moment of our daily life, and probably already do without being aware of when we are doing so. This is where Mindfulness comes in, for Mindfulness is awareness of our state of consciousness.
In order to practise Mindfulness, we don’t need a plush meditation room, incense or singing bowls; real spiritual practice happens in the real world, and with practice, we can all learn to master the art of Mindful Living. To begin practising Mindfulness in the real world, an ideal starting point is to give the task in hand, whatever it is, our undivided attention; to focus fully on what we are doing in the present moment. So if we are washing our hands, we focus our awareness on the sensations; the sound and the softness of the water, the scent of the soap; we focus on the movement of our hands and the texture, colour and warmth of the towel as we dry our hands. When we are making a cup of tea, again we value each and every part of the process, the weight and temperature of the cup – every sound, smell and texture along the way. When we are walking, we consider each and every step; we listen to the traffic, the bird song, the wind rustling the leaves and branches of the trees; we feel the warmth of the sun, or the chill of the breeze on our body. By consciously bringing our attention to our senses, we become at one with our body in the present moment; the only moment there is.
This is the essence of Mindfulness. When our attention is focused solely on our senses – if only for a brief moment – we cannot think about anything else, and so we give ourselves space to breathe and liberate ourselves from the treadmill that is our racing mind.
If the environment is particularly noisy, distracting or stimulating – a useful technique for quietening the mind is to take a number of slow, conscious breaths. As with sensory awareness, this simple technique automatically halts our racing mind and returns our awareness to the body – it is a bit like hitting the reset button.
This is a technique we can all practice anywhere, at any time during even the busiest of days – even if only for a few seconds at a time – who doesn’t have time to breathe? We can practice on the bus, on our lunch break, at our desk, queuing at traffic lights, in the doctor’s waiting room – even in the dentist’s chair. Bringing our awareness to our breathing is the simplest, and possibly the most effective of all Mindfulness practices, and it’s transformative power cannot be overstated. In just a few seconds we can return to a place of calm, in any situation.
When we focus on our breathing, our mind cannot dwell anywhere else. We don’t necessarily have to change or adapt the way we breathe – it is enough just to be aware of our breathing at certain points throughout the day; to be conscious of the sensation and rhythm of the air flowing in and out of us. Even if we only remember to take a handful of conscious breaths each day, we are already beginning to enhance our state of consciousness, and are making inroads to peace – we are beginning to live Mindfully.
Of course, the nature of our mind is to naturally drift and wander, and we simply need to accept this and not punish ourselves over it – for it is more than enough to just be vigilant of our mind, and notice when it wanders. Our mind naturally fixates on the past and future. It wants to ruminate over that family or office argument, or to dread that forthcoming exam or interview – and if left unchecked, it will go on to fabricate a multitude of irrational and disproportionate thoughts and scenarios much to the detriment of our wellbeing. Mindfulness in the form of sensory and breath awareness enables us to catch our mind as it begins to drift, and return it compassionately to the present moment – to the task in hand.
There is an undeniable physical energy to our mind’s past and future thought, and this energy cannot be destroyed – for as physics shows us, energy can only be transferred or converted. Mindfulness simply provides an outlet for this extraneous energy – a channel into which the past and future thought energy can flow and be transferred into useful, positive energy in the here and now – where it can be converted into a positive virtue. Our emotional energy is both a natural and vital element of our humanity, and we are not attempting to suppress or deny it – we are simply learning to mindfully harness it and not to act upon it…
This in an extract from my blog, Mindfulness in the Real World: The Art of Mindful Living.