Describing something ad nauseum will surely exhaust its credibility. It may even blend into the mobbed, congested network of our over-stimulated lives; thus, its crucial and precious lesson goes unlearned, unpracticed. Such is the case with Mindfulness. Everywhere you turn someone is talking about mindfulness, even me, right now! But I’m going to tell you the real deal about mindfulness. It’s not complicated.
When we think of mindfulness we invoke images of Yogi’s levitating, eyes drawn back so only the whites are visible, chanting harmoniously, ohm…ohm…ohm. This is not so. Mindfulness means being present at a precise moment. It is when all your consideration is focused on what you are doing, feeling, saying, enjoying, and being. Mindfulness can be freeing and inspire growth!
Forced to Face
Mindfulness can also be classified as Attention. And attention leads to Control and Balance. We all want control and balance in our lives. It all starts with mindfulness. Mindfulness leads to an altruistic life. You cannot hide from yourself whilst existing in attendance with your thoughts. Being present influences you to evaluate and scrutinize your life; it forces you to face any deficiencies. After that only two things can happen. You can disregard what needs to be changed or fixed in your life or take control and resolve any issues that have become apparent. Thus, growth is inevitable with mindfulness. But, it doesn’t come easy. Consistency is the key!
Practice Makes…Pretty Good
Mindfulness is a skill. It takes time to master like any other ability worth learning. You will never be perfect at being present; there is always room to grow. But you can master it until it becomes second nature. Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher who came to be known in the early second century C.E. He lived first in Rome as a student, and then as a teacher with his own school in Nicopolis, Greece. Epictetus explains in his writing how important it is to practice mindfulness. He told his students once they have let their attention lapse, it is very difficult to recover it, “Do you not realize that when once you have let your mind go wandering, it is no longer in your power to recall it, to bring it back to what is right, to self-respect, to moderation?” We must not allow “life” to influence us and take us away from mindfulness. Being mindful is being in control. Regularity in practice is essential but don’t think school ends any time soon. You’re here for the long haul!
You’re Going to Be Here a While
It is a war not just a battle. Take your time. Making our way through this life is difficult. It starts with our first breath and ends with our last. We are thrown into this world innocent, clueless; immediately we search to make sense of our surroundings. We continue this our entire lives. Epictetus proposed, “It’s a lifelong series of subtle readjustments of our character. We fine-tune our thoughts, words, and deeds in a progressively wholesome direction. When you actively engage in gradually refining yourself, you retreat from your lazy ways of covering yourself or making excuses.” When we are actively engaged in our lives, we are being mindful. And when we are mindful, we have no choice but to grow.
Try this exercise. You can use a raisin or any other small edible like, nuts, berries, grapes, etc. For this exercise I will use a raisin.
First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Squeeze it gently. Take note of the texture.
Next, Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with full attention—imagine that you are from another planet and have never seen anything like this before. Reconnoiter every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker caverns, the folds and crests, and any unique features. Now, Close your eyes and turn the raisin over between your fingers, squeeze gently.
Take a whiff! Hold the raisin beneath your nose. Inhale. Envelop your nose with the aroma and fragrance. Take note of what may be happening with other senses. Notice your tongue.
Now slowly bring the raisin up to your mouth. Delicately press it to your lips. Feel the texture on your lips. Softly place the raisin in your mouth; do not chew it! Spend a few minutes focusing on the raisin in your mouth. Explore it with your tongue. You should begin to taste it. Try to pick out the sweet and tart sensations. Then, after a few minutes take one bite. Let it continue to roll around your mouth. Notice what exactly happened. How did it split? Did it squish? How big are the remaining pieces? Continue to chew noticing all the changes.
When you are ready to swallow the raisin, first detect the intent to swallow. Experience the pre-swallow activity, an increase in saliva. Be very conscious as you swallow the raisin. Follow it down until you cannot feel it any longer.
You can apply this same technique to anything in life. Riding a bike, exercising, eating a meal, making love (being mindful during love making increases the pleasure tenfold!), or any other activity in life. One of the best ways to be mindful is to just sit with your thoughts. Don’t try to deflect, deny, or ignore them. Engage with your thoughts. Yes, this can be scary-at first. But after a while it is most assuredly freeing. Be one with yourself. Be good to yourself.