Mindfulness, as one practitioner puts it, is ‘falling awake.’ Or flying awake. And this wakefulness is awesome. You’re a Rip Van Winkle constantly viewing in amazement a new world . You’re as open as the Grand Canyon for new ideas, quietly alive to different perspectives, deeply attentive to details without being judgmental. And your awareness of every moment is so acute that you feel the whole world has slowed down for you.
To live mindfully, bring the quality of gentle, nourishing grace and ease to your every action. Examples: ~I carry a bag of jerry cans and set it down oh-so carefully as if it contains fragile fluted glass goblets. ~I don’t jostle and overtake people to board a bus; I move inch by patient inch in the queue, relaxed, touching every moment, enjoying every step. The Masters of mindfulness say, “Live each moment to its fullest as a special moment, as the only moment you really have.” Thus, every moment generates an energy of harmony, of healing, of conviviality.
But, how do you not get irritated or impatient? Generally, dizziness diagnosed as high blood pressure, heart palpitations, lethargy or burning acidity open a window to pause and reflect! When realization dawns that these emotions stress you by keeping you in a state of perpetual conflict, crisis, struggle, where ease has become dis-ease, you know you have to let go anxieties, anger, these despairing spells. You are willing to surrender all negativities. Where earlier you merely smiled at certain practices you’d read or heard about, now you are open to them. Perhaps they work, you think, throwing yourself a rope of hope.
The beautiful aspect of practicing mindfulness is: you need neither equipment nor a difficult body posture. Just stop resisting. Relax, imagine you are a drop of water allowing yourself to flow in the river of life, and enjoy being in this wonderful state of trust and positive passivity. I recommend three everyday activities to practice mindfulness in – breathing, walking, eating. Become conscious of your breath and bring health, joy, peace to your body, mind, spirit. Walk with the awareness that every step is a step of well-being. Eat with gratitude knowing that every morsel is offered by nature to nourish and strengthen us. Once you’ve gained the rich experience of mindfulness though such activities, you will transmit it to your work, relationships, hobbies… You will drop your old mechanical, mindless way of thinking and living as you embrace this new radiant state of being.
Mindful breathing. Sit comfortably in a chair, spine and head straight, eyes and mouth closed gently. Focus your attention at the base of your nostrils. Feel the incoming breath and the outgoing breath… Don’t try to breathe deeper or slower. Breathe naturally. Observe the inflow and outflow as it is…as it is…
Occasionally, your mind may wander. Concentrate again on your breath at your nostrils. This is not a mechanical exercise, it’s practicing mindful breathing. Keep telephone and doorbell on mute during the practice. Don’t talk, visualize or imagine. Let the mind dwell solely on your breath.
Enjoy breathing mindfully. Enjoy, don’t question, don’t interfere with it. You are not improving your way of breathing, you are only paying attention. Your attention is like the sun, the sun’s rays pour on the flower and it opens… Similarly, the rays of your attention pour on your breath and you awaken, become aware. Your attentiveness imparts a healing quality through your breathing and the quality of your perspective, temperament, being improves. Muscles relax. Emotions quieten. Thoughts get suspended. Order reigns.
The body is always in the now. With mindful breathing, the mind too stills. When body and mind are on the same page, a new book of life opens… To be fully present in the now is a novel experience, a unique experience. For normally, the mind flits endlessly from past to future, from future to past… Ah, so restless, so troubled, so confused. But now, when it joins the body in the present, a magnificent peace prevails. Over four days, anger, fear, rivalry, greed fade and, ultimately, vanish. Peace, joy, gratitude surge to fill the void. You’ve cast off all artificially-learned emotional reactions and stand renewed in the radiant purity of that which you are.
As the parable goes: The executive and the monk were in a long discussion. The sad-eyed executive concluded with a sigh, “Once everything falls into place, I’ll find peace.” The twinkling-eyed monk shook his head and corrected, “Find your peace and then everything will fall into place.”
Mindful walking. “I took a walk. Suddenly I stood still, filled with the realization that I had no body or mind. All I could see was one great Illuminating Whole,”wrote Han Shan, Zen Master. I had a similar experience. So can you. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and walk. Let your body lead. Gradually, you’ll get into its natural stride, its natural rhythm. Pay attention to your strides and breathing in a relaxed way. The distance is not important. It’s not ‘how much’, it’s the ‘how’. If you feel the competitive urge to overtake another walker, smile at your ego and deliberately slow down your pace. This is how you train your mind into mindfulness. Another walker overtakes you? No problem. Wish him or her well silently!
Enjoy every step. Be grateful to the earth for unfolding a beautiful path for you to walk upon. Think of every step as a kiss of appreciation, of love. If an occasional pebble makes you skid or a bump stubs your toes, smile at the mischievous way the cosmos brings you back to the present. For the Tao says, “People who surrender all their blocks and conflicts experience a free flow of vital energy. They enjoy a childlike immunity to injury. Bugs won’t bite them. Dogs don’t attack them. Troubles leave them alone.” Also, this is how you consciously build an intimate relationship with the earth, the universe. You relate when you don’t berate. Mind your every thought with every step. Let each step be a love-step, a peace-step, a health-step, a step of strength for all. When every step is suffused with a deep meaning, it becomes a walk of well-being, a padyatra vibrant with play, praise and promise.
Mindful eating. I’ve been through the “Hahaha-not-watch-TV-while eating? -you’re-kidding-right?” routine. TV and food appeared like a happy marriage until…I actually put them on a trial separation and…discovered the joys of mindful eating! It’s a paradox – we think of food all day but not when we’re actually eating a meal!
Without TV, eating becomes a beautiful meditative practice. You know what you place in your mouth, you relish the texture and taste and derive maximum enjoyment. The Masters exhort, “Put only the food into your mouth. Don’t push your preoccupations, projects, anxieties, guilt, frustrations. Why eat your fear, anger or past and future? Be where you are eating – here in the present moment.” When you pay full attention to eating, you feel satisfied, buoyant, energetic. Comforted and hopeful too if you are going through a tough phase.
Look deep into your food – it has the salt of the seas, the water of rain, the fire of the sun and stars, the freshness of the air, the minerals of the earth… Look at the miraculous matrix you’re taking in! Eat in silent wonder – that’s the secret of great digestion.
Make your home and workplace ashrams of mindfulness. Pause between tasks, between calls to breathe mindfully. Speak thoughtfully, listen mindfully while in an official meeting or with your loved ones. Mindfulness gives you clear loving insights: that people don’t want to control you, they want to participate in your life; that there are no leakages in life, only abundance overflowing… When you mind your mind every moment, the world becomes a magical place shining and singing with glorious possibilities.