Being conscious gives us with a new foundation for treating ourselves with compassion and self-respect. Mindfulness allows us to relate to the world with increased freedom, joy and self-control. Mindfulness helps us to not take ourselves too seriously, and keeps us from getting stuck in irrational or distorted ways of thinking. Perhaps most importantly mindfulness puts us in touch with our own deepest wisdom and inner truth.
“I came to the woods to live consciously, and not when I came to die find out I had not lived” -H. Thoreau
Mindfulness means seeing what is true about ourselves and the world around us without distortion. A little reflection will reveal that much of the time we perceive ourselves and the world based on our past experiences. Rarely are we able to look at ourselves or our lives in a way that is fresh and free of the influences of the past. We tend to act out of instinct, habit, and reactivity; and this usually means we play out the same old scripts over and over again. When we are not conscious, we tend to allow the momentum of our life to carry us along without much direction or conscious choice on our part. We tend to make decisions based on fear and avoidance, rather than imagination and clarity of purpose. Being mindful helps us overcome this tendency and puts us back into the driver’s seat of our own lives.
Much of the time, we function on autopilot and our attention is divided among many competing priorities. As a result we miss out on much of the richness of life in the present moment. It is obvious that if we are not fully present during positive experiences, we can miss out on their full enjoyment. How often have we found ourselves daydreaming about the past or the future while having dinner with a loved one or even while walking in a beautiful park? Learning to slow down and bring our attention back to the present moment is a tremendous gift we can give ourselves. Take a moment and consider:
The discovery of ourselves is an ongoing creative process. When we live in a world that bombards us with messages about how we should act, what we should think, and what car we should drive, it is sometimes refreshing to take a moment and reconnect with our own deepest thoughts and emotions. Our true nature is always available and waiting to be discovered.
Of all the different types of meditation, mindfulness is perhaps the most directly applicable to daily life. More than being merely another exercise for the meditation cushion, it takes the ability to control your attention developed in concentration practice, and applies it to living life more fully and with greater awareness and authenticity.
Mindfulness is the ability to be Present in our lives. It is the ability to focus our attention firmly in the present and experience all of our inner and outer perceptions of life exactly as they are in this moment. This leads to a deep and rich quality to our lives and a much greater understanding of our selves. It also reveals the innate wisdom and intelligence found in our embodied experience in the here and now, and it provides a foundation for beautiful and profound experiences and states.
We have all had moments of transcendent beauty and presence when time stops and we are filled with a depth and breadth of experience that makes our ordinary daily state seem dull in comparison. Perhaps it was reaching the top of a mountain after a difficult climb, a beautiful heart stopping overlook, a special piece of music, or simply a moment alone with someone you love. These special moments enrich our lives and give us a glimpse of a deeper dimension of being than we typically experience. Mindfulness is a practice that teaches us to include this deeper dimension into our everyday experience of life.