At the start of a mindful meditation session, silently remind ourselves of the intention for doing the practice. We may say something like, ‘I intend to be fully awake and attentive to my unfolding experience, without judging it.’ It can be this simple.
To be mindful means that we are paying attention to our experience and sensation, in the present moment, accepting them and free of judgement, and observing it with curiosity and not trying to ‘fix’ anything. Approaching difficulty in this way allows us to cultivate equanimity which is an unshakeable peace of mind in the face of anything that life throws at you.
From moment to moment, if we really pay attention to what is going on in our mind we will probably notice that we tend to spend a lot of time ruminating over the past or worrying about and planning for the future. Thoughts about what happened yesterday or twenty years ago can easily play on a repeated loop. Without realizing it, we can get lost in this rabbit hole of memory often wishing things were different and imagining that we could have been better. This leads us nowhere except more rabbit holes of never ending thoughts or harsh judgements about our lives that can easily result in wasted energy on anxiety and overall depression. We can’t do anything about the past so why so much time and energy thinking obsessively about it? This isn’t to say that you never think about the past but that our past is a servant to our present experience as opposed to being the dictator.
We might also notice that instead of actually paying attention to whatever it is we are presently doing we can easily get lost in glorious fantasies about the future and/or extreme anxiety about making it all happen. Positive or negative feeling, it is DENSE energy. Our lives always being spent planning for tomorrow, or imagining where we will be in one month, one year, five years, and if we will have achieved all our goals by then. Will I be accomplished? Will I find love? Will I be successful compared to others? What are we expecting to happen in our lives and how does that affect the health of our current state? We can’t do anything about future outcomes except align ourselves in the present moment for how we want to grow and do nothing else but witness what naturally comes our way. This type of being easily leads to appreciating ourselves more and self-love. It takes the obsession and expectation out of the external ‘other’ for defining our happiness and transfers it into our internal selves for being responsible for that. People and situations then come into our life that align with what naturally is burning so vibrantly and alive within us. When we try to control the future it is like trying to herd cats. Perhaps we can be somewhat successful at it but the energy it takes might possibly, literally kill us and fill up our entire day thinking about nothing else. Our whole life will be one of stressful control issues. Focusing so much on control leads to sickness and stress of the mind and body, unnecessary aging, disease, unhappiness, etc. We very much know what that looks like in consumer based cultures because it can easily be everywhere we look. So much so at times, that it can be hard to see that something else beyond actually exists.
To be absorbed so much in past and future thinking is problematic because it distracts us from what is actually happening. This never-ending onslaught of inner stress and tension separates us from our innate wisdom and being. We are no longer being mindful and simply BEING in our creative life and love space that makes us extraordinary powerful people. We are called human BEINGS for a reason. Not human thinkers or human controllers. What would our lives be like if we were just BEING in them more? Our BEING is our natural state of what we would do with ourselves if we allowed our sensory and felt senses to move us mostly in directions in life. It’s at least worth a try to compare what the difference would be compared to always being in the controlling mind. It is not that remembering the past or planning for the future are inherently bad but that we tend to overuse this mode of thinking at the expense of ‘being here now.’ When we are not mostly in the ‘here and now’ of the present, it diminishes our ability to connect to the natural pulse and heartbeat of life. Tuning in and aligning with that ‘pulse beat’ allows us to be more capable to absorb what that has to teach us about our natural path and callings for feeling meaning and fulfillment and arriving at self-actualization, and overall self-transcendence.
Mindfulness helps us notice when we are being seduced into thoughts of the past or future. How much do we get stuck in day dreaming? How much do we explode with happiness or sadness about the past or future? Positive or negative daydreaming thoughts have similar overall outcomes in our mind. Yes, of course positive thoughts are positive and easier to handle but everything has its equal and opposite reaction, so extremes in positive thoughts often leave us more open to have extremes in negatives. Seeing your extremes and being aware of them vs actually always living in them is being mindful. When we become aware that we have been distracted by such thoughts, we are able to acknowledge the distraction, let it go, and come back to the present moment. Even if we have to do this 100 or 200 times a day on the same thought, this is mindfulness and it won’t always be that hard, once we get better at it (it is called a ‘practice’ for a reason). Our thoughts are, after all, just thoughts. Nothing more, nothing less. They are not anything near as real as the way that we feel in the present. We can allow ourselves to enter mindfulness by focusing on something that is happening now which can include sensations in the body, the feeling of the breath moving in and out, listening to sounds around us. Anything will work that shifts our attention and center of awareness from our habitual mind thoughts into our sensory experience. It is very achievable, and peace does come!
The term ‘losing your mind and coming to your senses’ is the old saying here. We don’t have to be totally burdened with the feat of losing everything in the mind and thinking of nothing, but rather, of simply acknowledging our wandering minds and seeing them as just small parts of us that don’t really mean anything and are mostly just stories. Then we can return without judgment, to the present moment. The more we practice this meditation of recognizing distraction, the longer we will be able to anchor ourselves in the present experiencing less mental and body stress.
Mindfulness presents the possibility of actually attending to the anxiety by ‘leaning’into it and putting our head into the lion’s mouth of our problems. This leads to creating an instant dissolving of whatever we thought our problems were. It is very real that fear is rather an acronym (F, E, A, R–False Evidence Appearing Real). What are we afraid to experience by not going towards and living on the other side of our fears? Once crossing that threshold, it is pretty apparent to feel that what we had built up about our fears was actually WAY WORSE than us actually crossing over into and living in our fear. We then often laugh about it, at how much importance, drama, and energy we gave something. After all, we are just living our lives and doing the best we can and there can’t be any judgement and expectations attached to that. This is learning, this is mindfulness, this is growth, this is living the life we’ve always wanted. Why not go there?