“You will know when you are at peace, calm, passive…” – Yoda
Mindfulness is defined as “The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the here and now. In other words being mentally right here in this present moment as you read these words.
The journey into a philosophy for life begins with awareness of the ability to analyze our own existence. Awareness is nothing more than knowledge and mindfulness of ones personal thoughts, biases, beliefs, feelings and place in time and space. Consciousness of self is awareness of ones inner existence and the effect the self exerts on the world.
A Jedi has acute awareness. She will sense every quiver, every sensation and emotion in her body without reacting to it. She will allow distracting thoughts to pass like clouds without engaging them. A Jedi is completely aware of what is happening inside and outside of her with each passing breath. The Jedi is aware and focused in the present moment without concern for the past or future. A Jedi uses observation, reason and objectivity in becoming aware of a situation and determining a course of action and when making a judgement.
When Obi-Wan Kenobi sat meditating before he fought Darth Maul he was clearing his mind of all distracting thoughts and emotions. Luke cleared his mind of all doubts and fears before taking the fatal shot that destroyed the Death Star. The Jedi relied on awareness to connect with the Force and harness the presence and power to accomplish their goals.
Awareness practiced as mindfulness is no mystery. In fact it is part of our natural makeup. The Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual traditions have advocated mindfulness and the power of living in the Now for millennia. Despite this we are led to believe that we require rigorous mental training with the aid of instructors, gurus, books and apps. Nothing could be further from the truth. All you need to do is start.
Being aware is being fully engaged in life. It is taking time to smell the roses, appreciate the sun on your face, the wind in your hair. It is stopping to pet the cat you encounter on the street. Being aware is acknowledging your thoughts and emotions but allowing neither to dictate your reasoned actions.
Meditation is a mindfulness exercise. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, anytime. Being fully aware while driving a car, brushing the dog, washing the dishes, listening to music, playing with the kids and in fact doing just about any activity is an exercise in mindfulness. It is simply paying attention to what you are doing.
Commit your mind to the task with intent. If you are washing the dishes you are only washing the dishes and nothing else. Feel the water on your hands, the hardness of the porcelain and cutlery. Hear the sounds it makes. Use all of your senses. When you eat an apple experience the apple, observe its shape and color, notice the taste and texture as you bite in to it.
When you enter a room stop to look around. If there are people in the room take the time to notice them. Form a general impression from your surroundings wherever you go. Never blunder along with your face buried in a smart phone oblivious to what is happening around you. This is an all too common sight in society today. People are barely aware they are alive.
When you sit, allow mental intrusions to pass without engaging them. You can focus on the breath, the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen. If thoughts distract you, simply return to the breath.
There is a saying that when an old man sits, he only sits, there is nothing else going on; this is the essence of mindfulness.