This buzz-word “Mindfulness” has been bandied around for some years now and to many it may seem like yet another fashionable personal development pastime. I mean surely being mindful is just a question of paying attention to what is going on in and around us; aren’t we already mindful in our lives? So what is all the fuss about?
Well yes and no; learning to pay closer attention is certainly at the core of mindfulness but there are other qualities that we are bringing to bear when we look to develop this as a skill. If we are going to accurately observe our lives then we really need to bring objectivity to the process; avoiding any judgement of whether we like what is going on or indeed whether we think something is good or bad. Instead we just notice, without engaging our chattering mind that so loves to build a narrative around our experiences. Turning whatever is currently happening to us into a storyline, regardless of its validity, prevents us from truly living the experience. It’s like spending all your time at Niagara Falls taking selfies to post online, but not actually being present to the wonder and power of nature on show before you.
On top of this, for us to really notice something we have to be aware of it in the moment it is actually happening, not by reflecting back on how we remember it to have been or imagining how it is going to be, but actually there in the moment. Or more accurately here and now, in this moment as you are sitting reading these words. Right now is just as important as any other moment in your life; each is unique and precious as it passes like sand through the hourglass of our existence, not just the highlights, especially if we are open and aware to the million miracles going on every second.
Since you started reading this, your body has quite happily been breathing in and out, in all probability without you even being consciously aware of it. Your heart has similarly been working away pumping blood to carry oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients, hormones, proteins, waste products and a host of other essential chemicals around your amazing body, without you having to give it a moment’s thought. Each and every one of us is a miracle made up of a million other miracles, we are just so used to it that we become blasé and take it for granted, at least up until the point that something starts to go wrong and we are gripped by the fear that all those grains of sand might be slipping away.
So, being more fully awake and aware of this one-off adventure called “life” would seem enough of a reason in itself to train this faculty we all have to its optimum level, but the story doesn’t end there. When we allow our habits, personal opinions and beliefs to take the reins we lose that objectivity that allows us to directly know anything. When we believe that our world will collapse if we lose our job because we get caught in traffic, or that our life isn’t going to be worth living if any element of our preconceived notion of happiness falls apart, we are feeding ourselves the lie that we are somehow in control and if we can just keep everything in order we will live happily ever after. By its very nature the essence of life is change and uncertainty and when we tell ourselves otherwise we are resisting the very foundation of existence, and that resistance is felt as stress, anxiety or depression. The more that we learn to notice this resistance as it arises and the more ingrained our mindfulness practice is the easier it becomes to live free of fear and expectation, embrace change, the unknown and the miracle of our very existence.