Mindfulness: Simple but not Easy
Mindfulness is a gift that you can give to yourself. It is perhaps the greatest gift that you can give to yourself and the idea behind mindfulness is really a very simple one. It is simply to be consciously aware. However, while the sentiment might be very simple the implementation of the idea can be a lot more difficult to achieve. One reason for this is that “being consciously aware,” while only being a three word sentence packs a whole lot of stuff in to it. It’s a bit like saying to a smoker, giving up smoking is easy… all you have to do is stop smoking.
To be mindful requires you, (even if for only a few moments), to let go of the past and the future and live to only in this moment. To be consciously aware. No problem, you might think, but then you realize just how much time you actually spend thinking and that both the past and the future are a a big part of that thinking. In fact as you ponder your thoughts you will quickly see that nearly every one of them is connected either to past events or future ones.
Dig a little deeper and you may even begin to see that your ideas of past and future are constructs of your thoughts and that your thoughts and the rules you use to create, think and follow them are also constructs; constructs of everything you have ever heard, seen, be thought or read. From the moment of your birth and even before that, your mind has been taking in information and constructing your reality based on that information. As your mind grew, it developed hearing, sight and touch and added the information they brought to this constructed reality. Then came speech and language and mathematics and culture, religion, ethics and philosophy. Words, ideas and numbers got wound together into multitudes of complexities and forms. This is what goes into making up our reality. And being mindful asks that you let go of all this and just be. Simple right 🙂 This is why people sometimes struggle with mindfulness when they first try it.
Just as our smoker quickly realizes that smoking is not just the act of lighting up but is in fact wound up in all aspect of who they see themselves as our would be mindfulness practitioner quickly realizes that that thinking is also a habit, an addiction and is bound up very tightly with how we see our identity. However with a little practice at being mindful you can begin to see that just as our smokers identity is not defined by the cigarette a persons identity is not defined simply by their thoughts. Yes, their outer self can be measured by what they think and how they respond to those thoughts but their inner being is not defined by any thoughts because as we have already said thoughts are mostly constructed by reactions to the past or anticipations of the future and the being exist only in the now… and in the now there is past or future… there is only the now.
As odd as it may seem the inner being that lives in the now is the only part of you that lives in reality. The past is gone and the future has not happened yet so the mind, through our thoughts is in fact living in an imagined reality. Only the inner being, or conscious self, lives in reality… the living moment… the only moment that ever exists.
If you are new to the ideas on mindfulness this might seem a bit mad and certainly not something that can easily be achieved but if you can be a little patient and a little forgiving of yourself then mindfulness can be practiced by anyone. The trick is not to expect to much, don’t worry about trying to perfect it in any kind of way, to find a few simple practices that you can do and to practice little and often. A few captured moments of mindfulness is all you need to get started.
One thing to remember is that you do not have to learn mindfulness to practice it because you already have it. We all have it. Mindful awareness is active at all times in all living things. What you need to do to experience it on a conscious level is learn not to pay to much attention to all the stuff that is getting in the way of you experiencing it… namely your thoughts and all the emotions that come with them.
So, as you can see the simple idea of mindfulness can seem a lot more complicated when you start to look at what mindfulness involves. To make things easier lets us look at some simple things you can do to start to your practice of becoming more mindful.
In order to take on any new habit you need to deal with exactly the same things that someone giving up something needs to deal with, you just need to deal with them in the opposite way. For example, if you are a smoker and you are looking to give them up then their are 4 things you need to deal with.
- The Habit: The habit of smoking kicks in every time you are bored, stressed or excited. Your body detects these moments and offers smoking as something to do. It becomes a go-to setting for all stressors.
- Triggers: Triggers are the next thing that any quitter has to learn to deal with. That cigarette with your morning coffee, or the one right after a meal, or if you are drinking or on a smoke break at work.
- The addiction: Then of course there is the chemical addiction. You never have to worry about forgetting to smoke because you body will let you know when it has not had a hit for a while.
- The association with identity: This is one of the hardest ties to any habit to break. It is your identification with the habit. “I am a smoker. Trying to stop makes me feel like i am trying to be someone I am not. I do not feel authentic.”
Oddly enough, a little mindfulness practice would quickly help you to see how these obstacles are all generated in the mind and body and would help you to overcome them. But first you need to learn to be mindful. So keeping to the spirit of what you need to know to quite something you also need to know to adopt something lets us look at how we apply the same 4 principles to learning to be more mindful.
- The Habit: Habits are built by doing little but often. Find some simple mindfulness exercise that you can practice and make them part of your day. If you can’t think of any they have a look through some of our other blogs on the subject; we can suggest plenty. (Click Here)
- Triggers: Create mindfulness triggers, like taking 5 conscious breaths when you sit at your desk each morning before work. Observe the silence as you stand in a lift. Use a land mark you walk past every day to remind you to practice mindfully walking. Each time you pick up a book always read the first paragraph in a mindful way.
- The addiction: Thinking can be an addiction, a strong one, where thoughts run around and around and around. Start seeing if you sometimes notice when this is happening. Awareness is mindfulness. When you become aware that your mind is just chasing one thought after another, stop for a moment and focus on your breathing, even if it is only for a few seconds. Listen for the gaps between sounds rather than to sounds themselves.
- The association with identity: The more often you practice being mindful, even if it is only for a few seconds at a time, the more often you will begin to stop and become consciously aware of what you are doing. What seems odd and interfering at first starts to become more natural. The more often you stick your head out of the circus tent of your mind and breath the cool air of the moment the more you will begin to see just how crazy that circus can get. Peace and clarity will become apart of not just how you act and see the world but apart of who you know yourself to be.
Mindfulness is there inside of us all. It is not something that needs to be learned but rather something that needs to be given the space to come forward. Yes the idea of it is simple, and the achievement of it takes work but that work is well worth the effort because what it gives us is the natural peace of existence rather than the chaotic creations of the mind.