How often have you heard: “Be mindful when you eat, drink your tea or coffee, take a shower or bath, talk, walk etc.” There is mindfulness for sex, poker, work, sports, eating. The main emphasis seems to be on paying attention to what you are doing! Does this make a thief or sniper mindful? They are certainly focused. Is this what mindfulness is all about?
I believe that being attentive is confused as mindfulness. There is no question that the first aspect of mindfulness is to be aware. If one is not aware then one is trapped in the automatic reaction to what is happening and you can’t do anything about it. The problem is that there is no direction on what happens after you are aware. Mindfulness is multifaceted. It is about developing a skillful relationship with the present moment. There are multiple components present. Awareness, embodiment, compassion, insight into the true nature of reality and self leading to non-attachment to self and subsequent skillful and ethical action.
I lose my keys and in a flash my mind is saying to me: “How stupid and careless can you be! What will you do now. You will never find those keys. You are hopeless.” Would I deliberately think and say this to myself? What a terrible way to treat anyone. Our minds work so fast that instantly the present moment is referenced against the belief of who I believe I am with self-judgement and criticism of one’s action. I create a sense of self appropriate for this moment to compensate for my inadequate behavior. As soon as I am aware of my problematic self I identify with it and carry on with further amplification and proliferation of the story of self. This all happens beyond my conscious control of what is happening. This is the way our minds normally work. This instantaneous reaction may just be an attempt for survival purposes. How to prepare oneself for the possibility of a threat.
What is interesting about our minds is the subsequent presence of a gap. Our thinking mind naturally slows once it has initially judged and we become aware of the created self of the moment. There is time to consciously decide how we are going to be in relationship with the self. Does one carry on with further storytelling and judgment of the self or step into mindful discernment. Perhaps this reflects our minds attempt to pause and reflect on what our minds initially and instantaneously have created to be sure it is skillful.
As you become aware of the process of mindfulness and the presence of the pause, there is a greater potential for the gap to become more obvious, well-defined and prolonged. It is important to be aware of the pause and cultivate it. Step into the gap and get off the runaway train called self.
Awareness is a Mirror that reflects back who we believe we are
Mindfulness is a Window that lets us see who we really are
How do you see yourself? How do you really see yourself? We all have images about who we believe we are and the roles we act out in life. We believe we are strong or weak, introverted or extroverted, generous or selfish, kind or mean. Critically what underlies this image is our underlying belief system of who we are and how we should act in this world. What underlying unmet psychological needs are present that drive us to compensate for? It is this belief system through which we view each moment.
We interpret our experiences the way we believe it to be relative to our conditioned constructed sense of self. Conventional awareness is a mirror that reflects back who we believe we are. With mindfulness there is insight into the true nature of reality and self. As we deconstruct self, leading to non-attachment and ultimately no self creation, we are able to see experience through the transparency of a window. We see who we really are.
What is mindfulness ultimately all about? Is it to enhance attention, relieve stress, act ethically or achieve enlightenment? From a greater perspective it may reflect our basic human desire for harmony and homeostasis. What often happens in any moment is that we are triggered and enter a state of dysregulation. Every moment is viewed from a basic biologic drive for survival and we react subconsciously with a fight, flight or freeze response. We create our reality moment to moment.
Experience is seen through the lens of our personal unique conditioned belief system in order to compensate for the perception that we are flawed and incomplete. How can we react to make us feel safe, loved or worthy? We are forced to then deal with our anger, fear, sadness, shame, guilt etc.
Mindfulness is a counterbalancing force to help self-regulate our out of control system. Through awareness, insight into the true nature of self and reality and self-compassion mindfulness can help to bring us back to our baseline level.
There is this wonderful interplay between what one subconsciously creates and how one responds to it. Mindfulness is about an inner balance. Harmony between the activated conditioned nature of mind and the rebalancing, re-centering and grounding of mindfulness that brings mind back from its agitated state. Unfortunately, our resting state may not be one of balance. Many of us exist in a chronically dysregulated state of agitation, stress and anxiety. It is possible that as we cultivate mindfulness, not only are we able to return to our resting state but allow for it to be reset to a more grounded stable level.