When we are eating, are we aware of it, or just watching TV, chatting, or thinking about a response to something? When we are driving one vehicle, are we aware of it, or are we thinking about other drivers’ behavior, a problem at home or work , or ...? When we work, are we aware of our task, or are we wandering in the stratosphere? Most human problems exist because our life, most of the time, is on one place and the mind on something else. Or as John Lennon sang: "Life is what is what happens to you while your busy making other plans". It seems that in postmodern life we are lost in unconsciousness. This attitude sometimes brings tragic consequences. The opposite of unconsciousness is "Mindfulness".
The term “mindfulness ", originated in Sanskrit, it means being conscious to perceive what happens with intensity every moment. To be fully alert and vigilant of what happens without being distracted. In his book Transformation and Healing (Sutra of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness), Thich Nhat Hanh analyzes the text on ways to establish "mindfulness". He mentions the word satipatthana composed of "sati" which means "remember" or mindfulness, and upatthana meaning "dwelling place". In Chinese, the Sutra is expressed as "Nian Chu". Nian means "Be aware", "put the spotlight on ..." or, "remember". Chu can mean "the dwelling place", or "the act of dwelling”, “the act of being present", or "the act of establishing oneself". Therefore, I interpret "mindfulness" as: remember to be aware and present in our own mind, in order to avoid being manipulated by the appearances of the world.
The practice of mindfulness
The practice is to be aware, and focused on what happens during each moment. This does not mean sitting in a zen position, it can be applied to any daily activities: eating, walking, driving, thinking, etc. Shunryu Suzuki said: "Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine." (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind). The practice of being aware and concentrated is done through meditation or contemplation. In this sense we must remember that, in every day’s life mind has a preset "instinctive" program to satisfy desires and avoid suffering. Any stimulus triggers the instinctive result of an innate program. We did not participate in the "installation" of it, however we are controlled by it. Therefore the mind operates thoughtlessly always centered on itself. Meditation therefore is to gain control over one’s mind, to refocus it on higher, unselfish, compassionate and virtuous ways. Experience has taught me that only constant practice can achieve preset effective changes in attitudes.
If a person reads a score of music, but does not learn to play an instrument, he or she will never produce music. May produce annoying noises at the start, even in the absence of harmonious results, the person can feel frustrated. But practicing with patience and persistence, with the first chord, the persons will feel joy; with the beginning of a melody will feel excited, and persist harder. Finally, the person will produce music. The mere reading does not do it. It is the constant practice, persistence, and patience that will give dominion over the art. With mindfulness is the same.
The original text (Sutra), based on the teachings of Buddha, over 2500 years ago, speaks of four kinds of mindfulness: 1. Mindfulness of the body; 2. Mindfulness of feelings; 3. Mindfulness of the mind; and 4. Mindfulness of the objects of the mind. Thich Nhat Hanh, in Transformation and Healing, offers a synthesis. In the practice of being aware of the body, who practices must be fully aware of breath, body position, actions of the body, of the four elements of the body, and finally the decomposition of the body. In the practice of being present in the feelings, it is necessary to be alert to pleasure, to pain, to neutral feelings as they arise, lasting and disappear. Distinguish feelings of a psychological origin, from those having a physiological basis.
The goal of mindfulness is to go deeply into an object to observe it. This way of looking causes the boundary between subject and object to be dissolved, and then the subject and object become one. This is the essence of meditation. It has been said that the mind-brain can never touch the object. But this is from the Western point of view of the subject-object duality. From the Hindu and Buddhism point of view, mind can penetrate the object and be one with it. It is considered that only, and only when an object is known interiorly can be understood and comprehends totally. For Buddhism it is not enough to stay out as an outside observer. Therefore the Buddha's teaching was observing the mind from the mind, and emotions from within emotions.
Here are some exercises suggested by different authors:
"The walking meditation is performed by noticing the movement of lifting, placing each foot forward in every step. Help completion of each step completely before lifting the other foot. ‘Lifting, moving, placing, lifting, placing, move.’ It’s very simple. Again, Joseph Goldstein says in The Experience of Insight, it is not an exercise in movement. It is an exercise in mindfulness”. The purpose is to use the movement to develop an alertness and understanding. The goal of this exercise is to be aware, without being distracted, and stay alert to what happens step by step. The author argues that something as exciting as walking through New York, can be an excellent exercise in meditation if the person observes her or his breathing, if he or she stays calm inside, and keeps the mind to be attracted by the huge amount of external stimuli. Even if attracted by desires for power, sex, or any other, let them come and let them go. Thus the mind is held in meditation space, without getting lost in the desires, or the panoply of stimuli that build on the senses.
Who has visited or participated in a retreat in a monastery, or Buddhist temple, knows that the act of eating is important as part of learning the practice of meditation. You have to eat calmly, quietly and almost as a ritual. In the act of eating there is a huge amount of thoughts involved with the process. Is almost normal a desire for food pleasure, greed by the amount or accumulation. Just a bite or two and sensations appear. If we eat thinking about something else, we not even enjoy the act. The first is to look at the food, then to think, "I see," "I see." Then there is an intention: "intent". That intention causes movement of the arm: "I move", "move". Successively, when the hand or spoon touches the food comes the feeling of contact; raise your arm, open your mouth, place the food in your mouth, feel the texture, chew, feel the taste. You must be mentally present during the process.
Mindfulness of the mind
Mindfulness of the mind
Meditate on the mind is to be aware of every thought, how they arise and how the mind "thinks" or processes. This is the whole point, it is not to be involved in the content, observed, but not identified, or angry, or upset, or form part of a chain of thoughts, like one wagon after another of a moving train. It is to be aware only, during that instant what thought is happening. Some consider it helpful to write: thinking ... thinking ... thinking ... and record what you think. Make notes can help.
It is observing, without judging, the center of meditation on the mind. Observe calmly without reacting to the content of every thought (like a train with its load), without identifying with the load. When consciousness identifies with the thought, then the thought is the thinker. If merge, they merge into one. When this happens there is alienation. Being as consciousness it is dominated with that identification. The individual, controlled by those thoughts, does not think, it is thought by those thoughts! In this confusion, can become a fan of a religion, a political party, a football team, an ideology or anything else even meditation!
This can occur even with a meditation driven or focused on a specific purpose. By keeping your mind on that purpose, is not going to elicit mindfulness. It is therefore considered safer to use one undirected meditation, which sends the mind in automatic default mode, the natural sleep mode. Mindfulness clarifies the mind of cobwebs, redefine priorities and provides a sense of contentment. We must be present, yes but in what place? In one's mind and during the same moment we are living. In the next blog, I will return to this subtle internal aspect, not visible to the eye.
Many times we suffer from stress and anxiety because we ignore the benevolent part of reality. The media give us the worst news of every day, hiding to our mind all the beautiful things happening around us and the world greatly. By understanding the whole and the details, it gives us a new light to discern the why our actions, feelings, pains, diseases, traumas. Discerning, without judgment, we can, rather than suffer them, use them as an opportunity for our transformation.
Mindfulness is a state of being that allows us to be aware of the reality more clearly. We must be present, especially when driving a vehicle. This brings understanding, better decisions, inner peace, self-esteem, well-being and happiness. We must practice mindfulness constantly. On the contrary, if we are not alert, we ignore ourselves and deny what is happening around us. Not having a peaceful mind, a clear mind, we are tied to the noises of a city, and the entertainments absorbing the attention of the senses.
A moment of pure consciousness (Pure mindfulness), it is a beauty. It is a unique event. It occurs when the consciousness embraces the beauty of the universe effortlessly. It is a state of grace.