This is the first one of a series of articles on mindfulness for the benefit of both parents and children of Sati Pasala Wellington.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is simply being aware of the present moment. Let us expand this a bit. What it is that creates this awareness? The mind is capable of doing only one of the following two things at a time. It can become aware (simply know) something or it can think about it. Normally we become aware of something but this awareness is quickly replaced by a process of thinking about it. Thinking actually distort the real nature of “something” by comparison, judgment, and exaggeration. This is why that just “being aware” is much closer to the true nature of the thing we observe. Here we humans possess this thing called “the mind” whose activity has enabled us to become the dominating species of the world. This means the mind is a by-product of evolution which gave humans the power to survive and dominate over the rest of the beings. However, we have repeatedly failed to use the full potential of this wonderful gift.
Let me explain. We have got only this present moment in front of us, to do whatever we want to do or to achieve. But unfortunately, most of us use this present moment to ruminate about our past of its glories and its failures or dream about our future. The past has gone and the future has not yet arrived. So we lose the much-needed attention to the task that we have in hand at the present moment. This is why some of us become underachievers. Imagine the attention you give just when you are about to cut your birthday cake. This is the sort of attention we need to give to every moment of our life. Imagine a life in which you give 100% attention to every moment of its span. What a difference would it make to your life? But the nature of our mind is such that you cannot focus your mind on the present moment most of the time. It jumps from the present moment to either to the past or to the future and that is why we call it the monkey mind. So, the secret to living the life to the full is simply to find a way out of this wasteful habit of the mind. It is not a big secret at all, and it is called mindful training. Now I got your attention and let us take a step or two toward mindful training and practice
So, when our mind becomes aware of the present moment, we have put a stop to the thinking activity of the mind. Instead set the mind to observe without passing judgments and comparisons.
The activity or the object reveals in its full glory to the mindful practitioner who is observant and nonjudgmental. Be like a scientist who uses these qualities to discover the actual nature of the object he is experimenting with. Likewise when we observe what is presented at the present moment non judgmentally, we begin to realize the true nature of it. This is where the intuition works at its best. Imagine how Isaac Newton having had his mind at the present moment observed non judgmentally a falling apple fruit to discover the law of gravity.
Our impatience, our inner chatter, and outer noise often take our mind off the track to the past or future. We could overcome this by the practice of SMS. Whatever the task at hand we attend to it Slowly, Mindfully , and Silently in order to complete that task successfully. So it is single-tasking and not multitasking is the key to success in achieving multiple tasks.
Benefits of mindfulness
Bringing the mind to the present moment reduces the workload on the mind. The mind is no longer burdened with the anxieties and uncertainties associated with the future and similarly not disturbed by unpleasant or pleasant nature of the past experiences. This frees up the mind and enables it to focus on the present moment more serenely where the activity of the mind is limited to a bare minimum. Even during a complex activity where range and a number of different activities are involved, such as playing a game one takes up only one activity at a time and do it well and take up a different activity the next very moment. Imagine you are playing basketball. The player concentrates on isolating a mate to pass the ball during the moment A and then actually passing the ball in the moment B and so on.
Depending on the state of the mind, its influence on the bodily functions could either be wholesome or unwholesome. The relaxed and less stressed state of mind can now influence the body in a wholesome way. This wholesome influence of mind over the body brings about numerous health benefits. Scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.(https://www.amazon.com/Cure-Journey-into-Science-Mind/dp/0385348177)
If you look deeply, the purpose of life’s activities is to seek happiness (or fulfillment) whether it is spiritual or mundane. Seeking happiness by outwardly projecting the mind on the material world has time and again proved to be unsatisfactory. Instead, the inward projection of mind by being mindful of what is presented to the mind at the present moment makes you happy spontaneously without ever having to gain anything materially. Scientific evidence shows the Tibetian mindful practitioners to be one of the happiest groups of people living in the modern world. (https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-to-be-happier-according-to-matthieu-ricard-the-worlds-happiest-man-2016-1?r=US&IR=T) .
When you are mindful, your perception of things becomes interesting by capturing them in greater details. For example, a few days ago I was looking at a maple tree at my backyard. Instantly my mind became blissfully aware of the beautiful dance of multicolored leaves in the autumn breeze. Even a repetitive uninteresting activity becomes vivid and exploratory in a mindful perspective and helps to take the boredom away.
The ability to successfully complete the activity in hand as well has to achieve general wellbeing can be enhanced by being consistently mindful. This brings us to the question of how do we achieve consistent mindfulness? This is why training in mindfulness is important.
Mindful training consists of three main steps. Mindful sitting, mindful walking, and mindful daily activities.
Start this by sitting at a place as quiet as possible. The important point here is that the sitting posture must be comfortable. This can be done by using a chair or a cushioned floor. An effort must be made to balance and settle the body properly. We then focus our attention on the chosen posture. We will feel comfortable if the mind is focused on our bodies. After some time, you will begin to feel that your mind is not in the past or the future but just here and now. This is how to start our practice and with the help of a qualified instructor, we could proceed further. (Ref; Sati Pasala Instruction E-Book)
The next stage is mindful walking. We walk at our normal phase on a straight line that stretches for about 30 steps. Here we clasp our hands in front or behind and walk with open eyes. The point of focus now is on the change of feet from one to the other as you step forward and the touching sensation of the ground that is felt on soles. When you begin to be aware only of your walking but nothing else then you got the hang of it.
The third most important practice is to focus your mind on a day to day tasks. This is not that easy as we are used to engaging in our day to day tasks in senseless haste. But the trick is to select some tasks that you do on your own such as brushing your teeth or having a bath. There is a golden key to it and it is called SMS: Slowly, Mindfully, and Silently. This is where you begin to experience the joy of being mindful as well as some of the benefits mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Sustained practice of mindfulness makes it your trusted companion or best friend in life. The mindfulness becomes safe heaven where one seeks refuge and emerge totally protected in times of despair.
Daya Vithanage – Wellington