Mindfulness is a word and nothing more. A label that represents something far bigger than that which can be contained within any such combination of sounds that make up the word “Mindfulness”. Even if this website contained millions of words or even every book that has ever been produced on “Mindfulness”, it would still be unable to convey what Mindfulness actually is because it represents an experience. An experience of spaciousness, quietness, peace, kindness and the silence (any of these, all of these mentioned and so much more really). The space that surrounds any though and gives us an opportunity to begin noticing that we are not that particular thought.
As “Mindfulness” is an experience, as you read these words, notice that your eyes are reading these words. Let us break this down into an experience that might give us a glimpse into the experience and deeper meaning of Mindfulness, pausing whenever necessary.
- Notice that you are seeing these words through your eyes.
- notice the device that you are seeing these words on (Computer, phone, tablet etc)
- notice where your hands are. If the hands are holding something (tablet, phone, cup, mouse….) or are simply empty, notice what they are experiencing through the sense of touch.
- Go for the sensory experience – what you can feel through the tips of your fingers, where your body is resting at this moment – the cushions, chair, surfaces supporting and moulding themselves to your body’s shape and contours. Notice the temperature of the space you are in, noticing the difference between those areas that are clothed and those that have skin exposed to the air around us. Take a moment and just feel.
- if you are holding a tablet or phone, just notice really simple things that you may not have noticed such as the weight of the device, the texture of that area which is in contact with the skin on your fingers/palm.
- notice what your body is doing – sitting, walking, lying down…….
- whether you are sitting, standing or lying down, see if you can tune into those points of your body that are in contact with the surface underneath you and/or your body’s posture and
- experience the body, noticing which muscles are being used and which aren’t. noticing your sense of balance if standing and how any shift in the balance results in changes in the leg and knee muscles and ligaments.
- Notice the posture and that you are breathing (unless you are a zombie, vampire or one of the undead of course)
- Now notice where your mind is.
The mind could be doing one of 3 things:
- visiting the past
- projecting itself into the future, or
- aligning itself into the present moment – that your body is here right now, wherever it may be, reading this webpage, holding (or shifting) a particular posture.
Whether your mind is “thinking” about the past, future or aligned into this moment as you read these words, this “awareness” that thoughts are happening is the practice of mindfulness. As you anchor yourself into this moment through the sense of touch, sight, sound and so on, you become more present and a little space is created between the You that is present here right now, and the thought that is moving into the past and future.
You have experienced your thoughts as being separate from you. Not as a fact but as a phantom from the past or future, memories or worries about the future. This awareness is the essence of mindfulness.
It is known as a Practice, because as we practice, we get better. we are not supposed to be perfect in it. The perfection is in the awareness of whatever is going on – the awareness that the mind and/or body is sad, happy, depressed, excited, addicted to some substance or the other and so on.
Mindfulness is this experience where we begin observing and witnessing our thoughts. This process of separating oneself from their thoughts removes the very energy source from the mind, and just as we switch off a spinning fan, it continues to move and rotate because of the momentum until it finally stops moving and becomes still. This is the practice of mindfulness – based on this metaphor, we are learning to turn off the switch and then watch as the blades of the fan (our thoughts), gently slow down.