What a lovely week! I think I’m still feeling the after-effects of spending many hours meditating within the retreat group last Saturday. Many blessings to all who shared in the day’s meditations.
My previous post posited this question: “If meditation is the tool and mindfulness is the consequence, what other tools might be available for us to cultivate mindfulness?” It’s a good question. It’s easy to think of this work as trying to achieve some end that’s “out there,” but the end we’re moving toward is already “in here”! Let’s discuss this a bit.
As stated previously, when we practice meditation it’s with the intention to cultivate a very natural state, that of being mindful. To be mindful simply means to be aware in the present moment of exactly what is happening without judgment. No bias, no yearning, no wishing the situation to be anything other than what it is. It’s easy to not judge the present moment when things are going smoothly, but are we also awake in those moments, noticing and, perhaps, savoring them? If the answer is yes, then we’re being mindful. And that’s a good place to start your work of everyday mindfulness, work that is not “formal sitting meditation” but, rather, a very naturalistic effort that pays enormous spiritual dividends.
As it turns out any moment in which we are awake to actual events, both internal and external (though all events are internal, but that’s another subject!), without bringing judgment into the situation is a mindful moment. ANY effort we put into our everyday life that leads to being mindful makes that moment a tool to cultivate stronger mindfulness. So I can be strengthening my mindfulness when I’m walking the dog, taking out the garbage, listening to a piece of music, running trails, reading a book, sipping coffee, gazing out a window, writing a letter….. There’s no end to the list because there’s no end to human activity. Remember, mindfulness is not a special “state” that is in any way “more than natural.” It’s a most natural state that can become more prevalent with practice.
The practice par excellence is formal meditation. There’s no better “brain exercise” than simply sitting, aware of breath, aware of perceptions, aware of sensations, aware of thoughts, aware of emotions. It doesn’t matter where your attention rests, because when you direct your attention non-judgmentally you’re establishing a mindful state. The formal practice allows for the greatest concentration and practice of loving kindness for your self, your internal experiences, and all beings. But don’t overlook the 10,000 opportunities that your life offers to you to be practicing.
Bring intentionality to each morning, afternoon, and evening. The moment you realize you’ve become mindless make the shift, commit again, notice, breathe with it, accept. And you’re back!
One last item to enjoy. I found a brief article (link below) about the use of mindfulness to help men and women in the army avoid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their combat experiences. Fascinating reading.