The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.—Eckhart Tolle
Mindfulness is the Key to a Life of Fulfillment
“My mind is already full enough, thank you.” No, that’s not what I mean by “mindfulness” here. 😉
Mindfulness is surprisingly simple while being incredibly challenging. (Yeah, it’s one of those…) Being in a “state of mindfulness” is a rather blank and open place. It’s infinitely peaceful, entirely present and “in the moment”; a place where little “thought” actually enters in, rather it’s a place of receptivity to what’s “here”. There is no sense of urgency, or discomfort, nor is it passive.
[pullquote]Mindfulness is the antidote to Overwhelm: in any given moment we can only do one thing at a time.[/pullquote]Taking the time to check in with the present moment is vital these days when so many of us are feeling overwhelmed. In fact, Mindfulness is the antidote to Overwhelm because in any given moment we can only do one thing at a time.
To create a mindfulness practice takes some time, and this can feel unreasonable. Many get angry at the idea, “What do you mean, you want me to stop and “breathe?” Can’t you see that my world is on fire?”
Yes that is precisely when you need to stop and take stock of your situation: right in the middle of the mayhem. Without access to your higher thinking and feeling functions, you will never get beyond your Overwhelm. Being with where you are gives you a way out. (In truth there is no where else to be.) When in a burning house you can’t just run through doors at will, you’ve got to understand your options and know what’s available to you and this is only possible with a clear mind.
Meditation is a typical doorway into a mindfulness practice. As we learn how to meditate, there is a tendency to drift away from the present moment and into thoughts about “other moments”. That’s where the active practice of being “mindful” comes in: mindfulness allows you to choose where your mind goes.
This is why it’s so important to recognize who you are as distinct from your thoughts, feelings or other identities. (See the Authenticity page for more on this.) As long as you identify your Self as a “feeling” (for example, “I am afraid”), you believe you must follow that feeling wherever it takes you. This belief puts you into a passive, victim state—the opposite of mindfulness.
As soon as you recognize that you are not your feeling, you have a choice as to whether you are going to follow that feeling or not. That’s precisely where the mindfulness comes in: you have every choice as to where you will direct your mind.
You are also not your mind.
“Whoa… huh? How can I not be my mind?” you ask.
Thoughts take place in your mind, right? Hypothetically, let’s say you’ve broken up with someone you loved… it’s been a few months and you’re finally emerging from the pain. Suddenly, something reminds you of your “ex” and you realize that if you allow your thoughts to “go there” you won’t get anything done. So what do you do? You distract yourself, you call someone, put on a different song, go somewhere, you think about something else… or you don’t and you feel crappy. You chose to direct your thoughts and therefore have control over where you allow your mind to go.
[pullquote]Before you can know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you ARE.[/pullquote]What does it mean to be a “you” in the first place? If you’re not your feelings, and you’re not your thoughts, and you’re not your gender, or your nationality or even your mind, what’s left? Here’s the key to this question: what ties all of these things together? They are all things you can watch yourself experience, right? If you are feeling sad, there’s a part of you that notices that… especially when you start feeling happy again. You notice the change, you notice the difference between the two feeling states.
When you identify yourself as your feelings, or your thoughts or your other “identifiers”, that’s when you feel trapped and incapable of perspective, choice or change.
When you recognize this inner, very deep part of you, this Observer who chooses and directs your life from moment to moment, you will have arrived at the place of mindfulness.
Slow Down. Breathe. Get Present. Breathe. Choose Your Thoughts… Move your Body. Breathe.
Starting a mindfulness practice may look many different ways, but there are a few key factors that are fairly universal:
- Slow down. Give yourself at least 10 minutes every day to sit quietly with yourself and breathe.
- Get Present. What’s here now? Really… what’s happening in your life in this very moment, this one right here? You’re reading this article, this likely means you have a roof over your head? Probably food in your stomach? In this moment, are you going to be eaten by a tiger? No? So, breathe it in and be in this moment. Not a future moment, or a past moment, but this one. What’s available to you from here?
- Choose your thoughts. Step into the Observer and recognize where your thoughts are going. Decide if that’s where you want to go. If it’s not, move your body, connect with your breathing and change your thoughts. This takes “practice”.
Mindfulness is the key to a life of fulfillment… where else are you going to be fulfilled except in this moment… right… now?
Music Credit (in pod cast): Choshi or Shirabe ©1997 by Stan Richardson
Photo: Lake Malone, KY ©2009 by Christine Faucher-Kelley