By Daniel Scharpenburg
Mindfulness is simply engaging our experience in the present, moment after moment, dwelling in our experience as it is.
It is opening ourselves not just to the aspects of our lives that we like or dislike or see as important, but the totality of our experience.
When we practice mindfulness we can see the world as it really is. But, more importantly, we can see ourselves as we are: part of an interconnected whole. Allowing ourselves to really engage our experience takes some effort and practice. Until we make a concerted effort, mindfulness of the moment can be very slippery and easy to lose a grasp on. It’s so easy to get distracted and come out of this moment.
We do it all the time. That’s why mindfulness takes practice.
We are practicing to come into reality as it really is, right now. After we practice we start to realize that we can be mindful in any activity. It’s not only possible when things are easy or quiet. We can be mindful when we are working, when we’re driving, when we’re doing housework. We can also learn how to be mindful when we are afraid or upset.
When we are mindful we can act with clear thinking. Rather than having our decisions distorted by how we feel about situations, we can still think clearly.
As we continue practicing, our attention becomes more powerful. Practicing attention releases us from the delusions that are always distracting us. Practicing helps us control the constant chattering “monkey mind” that’s always dragging our thoughts around and distracting us.
To be mindful is to simply be aware.
As thoughts come without getting involved in the thoughts—not going off on a train of thought, not worrying about where a thought came from—but simply being aware that thinking is happening. It helps to make a mental note that we are “thinking” every time a thought comes.
Observe the rising of a thought without judging or reacting to it—without identifying it. Our thoughts are only thinking.
You will see that when we aren’t so attached to our thought process, that thoughts don’t last as long. As soon as we engage a thought with mindfulness, it disappears. Sometimes people find it helpful to label thinking in a more complete way, noting differing kinds of thoughts such as: thinking, desiring, remembering, etc. This can serve to strengthen our focus.
Try to note each thought the moment it arises.
When thoughts are noted in this way, they don’t have as much power to disturb our minds. Thoughts aren’t obstacles to our meditation, they are just an object of meditation, like the breath or a mantra. Make the effort to clearly note each thought and not get carried away by them. In this way, we will come to clarity.
If something comes into your mind, let it come in and let it go out; it will not stay long. Don’t try to stop thoughts, just let them come and go. Gradually, our minds will become calmer and calmer. Many thoughts come, but they are just from our own minds, which means they are under our control if we can just learn how to manage them.
This practice will bring about a state of balance and calm. Keep the mind aware of the thoughts that are arising from moment to moment.
Mindfulness is engaging this moment as it is.
This moment is all there is and all that we need.
Editor: Dana Gornall