Inner peace, mental clarity and a profound sense of conscious presence suddenly become so much easier to achieve when you discover how to tap the real potential of mindfulness. Chronic anxiety and low self esteem become a thing of past as you feel highly motivated and energetic enough to be able to take any set back in your stride.
Have you always thought of learning meditation but are not sure where to begin?
Training yourself in the art of mindfulness is the key to reprogram your behavior pattern and cope with daily stress and anxieties effectively. It also provides the foundation for meditation.
If you are thinking that learning mindfulness will change everything around you, you are wrong. It will change you in a way that you will be in control of everything in and around you. Does it sound like some exaggerated or theoretical statement?
Relax. Mindfulness is not an academic idea; it is a practical skill like swimming that can be learned without much trouble. Let us first make the essential meaning of mindfulness crystal clear.
What is Mindfulness?
“A mental state achieved by focusing one‘s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
Therapeutic definition of Mindfulness
“To be aware of the full range of experiences that exists in the present moment, without judgment. This includes sensory impressions in all sensory modalities as well as emotions and thoughts including visual imagery.”
Sogyal Rinpoche (1992 p.61) The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Sydney: Random House
“The practice of mindfulness defuses our negativity, aggression, and turbulent emotions….. Rather than suppressing emotions or indulging in them, here it is important to view them, and your thoughts, and whatever arises with an acceptance and generosity that are as open and spacious as possible.”
Speaking from practical angle, it can be described in the following way:
It is an impartial watchfulness of your thoughts, feelings and experience – without prejudice or bias. You are consciously aware of the thoughts you are thinking but don’t chase or analyze them. You are also aware of the present feelings – you just acknowledge them; don’t like or dislike them. You mentally note every experience but refrain from thinking, labeling or evaluating them. You are just a detached witness of yourself.
Mindfulness is also being ever ready to acknowledge and experience anything that comes up in the present moment. It also involves letting go, as the present moment turns past. It is observing and letting go continuously. It is a wakeful experience of life, an alert but detached participation in the ongoing process of living.
So, essentially the practice of mindfulness involves three types of mental efforts, namely
1. Being attentive to the present moment
2. Developing the attitude of a witness – an unconcerned observer
3. Willingness to let go every experience – no clinging to pleasant or running away from unpleasant
How Mindfulness Training Helps
In the so called normal living we habitually react to everything in and around us. We are ever busy thinking, analyzing, desiring, achieving, planning, scheming and so on. In fact, we are so preoccupied that we have no time to live! All our efforts involve doing rather than being.
The moment mindfulness is introduced everything changes. Conscious awareness is such a powerful tool that all habitual tendencies have to cease. Mindfulness is like a source of light and habitual activities are shadowy figures. They can’t coexist – as long as you stay with the light of mindfulness the habitual reactions must stop.
Without mindfulness you are a doer who does everything habitually – thinks, feels, decides and reacts. Mindfulness promotes you as a “witness” who merely observes without being involved. With practice, the role of “witness” takes precedence and the “doer” becomes subordinate. You begin to react less and respond more. This is a very healthy transformation.
How does mindfulness training help you respond, rather than react, to situations?
Mindfulness Leads to Distancing
Mindfulness makes the practitioner less identified with the contents of consciousness. In metaphorical terms it is as if you are watching the stream of consciousness rather than swimming in it and being buffeted by its eddies and currents.
As the attitude of being a witness strengthens you involvement with thoughts and feelings decreases. It separates you from what are thinking or experiencing. This distancing frees you from the tendencies of habitual reactions. Some therapists label the process of distancing as “decentering”. Now you are no longer a part of the crime! But you are now more like an unbiased reporter (hope such reporters exist on this planet!) who merely records the activities.
Distancing also helps you stay with unpleasant experiences much longer without reaction. As you keep practicing, even the intensity of unpleasantness decreases, because now you have stopped labeling anything as good or bad. Both these benefits allow you enough freedom to come up with a better response to any situation.
Do you now see how the practice of mindfulness can change you significantly? Now you are no longer a helpless puppet of outside events or situations, and not even a choice-less prisoner of your own thinking and feeling. Now you are really a free person – free to respond, if you wish to, in a manner of your own conscious choice. This is true freedom and true liberty!!
How to Master the Art of Mindfulness
The traditional approach is to go for mindfulness meditation that is also called Vipassana (or insight) meditation. Chopra Center is a reputed place to explore this beautiful art if you live close to … or are willing to travel and join a meditation retreat. They also offer several other things ideal for any spiritual seeker.
Warning!: Mindfulness is a simple concept; in fact, too simple! But don’t be misled by its simplicity. It is a little secret that can unleash the process of self transformation, provided you give it an honest try.
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