Most of the time, most of us exist in a state of Mindlessness. A state of semi-awareness governs by habit and inattention. Mindlessness causes us to suffer, probably even more than we are aware. But the good news is that this ordinary mental condition is not inevitable. But there is a scientifically proven cure for it, and it’s called MINDFULNESS.
A skill that anyone can learn. Mindfulness if practiced regularly, allows us to become keen observers of ourselves, and gradually transforms the way our minds function and operate. With sustained practice, mindfulness can make us more attentive to our experience and less captive to the when’s that drive our minds to inferiority.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined in a variety of ways, but virtually all definitions understand it as a particular kind of AWARENESS. At its most basic level:
“Mindfulness is a deliberate way of paying attention to what is occurring within oneself as it is happening.”
Mindfulness is moment-by-moment awareness. It is the process of attentively observing your personal experience as it unfolds. Mindfulness is more than just awareness; it is paying attention without judgment or evaluation.
The process of mindfulness is devoid of a constant comparing and assessing that ordinarily occupies our mental brain functioning. When we are being mindful, we are simply being mentally alert without the overlay of our usual commentary and conceptualizing because we are not entirely judging our experiences morally as right or wrong, or good or bad.
Mindfulness is also defined and characterized by a high degree of openness, receptivity, and inquisitiveness. With this open and attentive attitude, we can perceive ourselves more clearly. Observing the dynamics and details that often escape our notice.
Of course, defining and describing mindfulness is one thing but knowing it by experience is another. To give a taste of this experience, I would like you to participate in a short exercise.
There is nothing you need to do to prepare, just close your eyes and follow the instructions:
Try to become a dispassionate observer of your own experience, noticing what is occurring to you in each moment as it passes by. Do nothing more than observe, now direct your attention to the sound of your background meditation music.
Focus on the sensation of hearing, concentrate your awareness on your experience on what you hear. Notice the various qualities of that sensation, be aware of the tonal fluctuations that you perceive.
Observe how the picture of mediation music rises and falls and rises again. Listen to the variations of volume as the music gets quieter and then louder. Attend to the moments in music that goes silent and when it begins again.
Now open your eyes and reflect on your responses. Were you able to be fully attentive to the sensation of hearing? If you were, you are being MINDFUL. In case you were thinking about this experience or something else and got lost in your thoughts, you have defaulted to MINDLESSNESS.
In case you started to evaluate the character in your background mediation music, or let’s, say this exercise, you slip back into the mindlessness. Or if you thought people with southern accents sound like bumpkins, you are being mindless.
Or if you thought this experiment is a total waste of time, you are being mindless. If, however, you were aware that you are thinking people with southern accents sound like bumpkins and you were able to recognize that as merely a passing thought, you were being MINDFUL.
And if you continued in thought, it bad of me to judge people with southern accents so negatively, you are being mindless again.
But if you simply thought, I am judging myself for judging people with southern accents, you were being mindful again.
This exercise should provide you with a sense of what the experience of mindfulness is like,
“It is directing and maintaining nonjudgmental attention to the experience of our bodies and minds in the present moment.”
It’s not about removing thoughts from our minds, even judgmental thoughts. It’s about knowing when we are thinking and recognizing thoughts as momentarily events that flow through our minds like clouds to the sky.
Because mindfulness is based on the universal human faculty of awareness, we have all had experienced very close to mindfulness. Try to recall sometime in your life when you felt especially attentive, perhaps so rapt that your usual internal dialogue was simply suspended as you become fully present to your experience.