The Gift of Mindfulness
Through active mindfulness practice, we can begin to increase our awareness of the thought patterns that dominate our minds, and what stories or meanings we are creating as a result of them.
If we are to hone our mind to a centered approach and understand anything accurately, then the best place to start is within ourselves.
It’s only through doing this that we can begin to master our minds and influence our emotions in far more empowering ways. By observing our thoughts and simply being present with them, we empower ourselves to appreciate thought for what it is. Just thought!
If we will just action our ability to step back and cease believing every mindless thought that pop into our heads, we become free from those thoughts and consequential emotions we experience as a result of focusing on them.
Upon doing this, we create space in our universal minds to establish a greater appreciation for truth, rather than being held captive by the thoughts we have and the limitations of our perceptions. When we relax enough in our minds, it’s only then that we can gain the clarity and insights that we seek.
This is the gift of mindfulness, to step out of the unconscious, mindless automatic brain functioning that most of us are programmed to embrace as children, and increase our awareness of ourselves, other people and the immediate environments in which we live. This is what gives us the inner peace that we desire.
What have you brought mindful awareness to today?
How often do we stop to curiously witness the nature of our thoughts as if we were an outside observer of them? When caught in a less-than mindful state, our thoughts tend to take over our identity, defining who we believe ourselves to be and directing our perception of the world.
Thoughts, like our emotions, tend to arise without any effort or conscious intention. Thoughts will often pop into our minds and end up taking on a life of their own. One minute we can be happily enjoying a coffee with friends, and the next minute we can be lost in a bombardment of destructive thought patterns.
While thoughts are commonly triggered by our initial interpretations of our life events, thoughts are often associated with emotions. However, thoughts themselves are separate from our emotions.
Thoughts are the offspring of our beliefs, attitudes, reasoning and the like. Collectively, our thoughts become the stories that our minds tell us (which sometimes, can very easily be proved as inaccurate and untrue).
Often when our attention has been captured by an event in the external world, the emotional reaction we experience will activate a story in our mind in the attempt to work out and interpret what is happening.
Our ‘conscious thinking’ part of our mind is wired to reason, form beliefs and attitudes that are representative of how it is that we interpret our most important life’s experiences. The reasoning human mind is ingénues. It is why we each have the ability to be infinitely creative.
However, as we practice witnessing our thoughts from a place of slight separation, we get to know them in a different way. We start to uncover patterns and habits in our thinking, which naturally helps us to learn, grow, and evolve in nourishing ways.
We Can’t Stop Our Thoughts
The important point is that while we can discipline our minds to focus on more important aspects of our life, ourselves and our surroundings, we cannot prevent thoughts from entering our minds, to begin with. They come from somewhere else. Historically, I’ve known people to end up increasing their fears or anxieties as a result of believing that who they are is a reflection of what they think. A person is separate from what a person thinks, or, as it was once said, “Man is not what he thinketh.”
Begin by coming into a seated position. Whether on the floor or in a chair, ensure that the spine is straight and the shoulders are relaxed. Set a timer for five to ten minutes.
Take five full breaths to ground yourself. Notice the sensations associated with each inhalation and each exhalation.
After those five breaths, continue to breathe naturally but see if you might broaden your awareness. Pay particular attention to what rises in the mind.
As thoughts come up, notice them without becoming involved in the direction they are heading it. Without judging, suppressing, denying, or becoming enamored by your thoughts, watch what moves through you as if you were an elder watching the movements of the community. Notice what rises and subsides in your awareness.
As you watch your thoughts pass by, embracing compassion and curiosity as you get to know your experience in a new way. Observe the emotions and beliefs your inner dialogue triggers, as well as what the imagery looks like. If emotions are present, notice where they present themselves in the physical body.
It is quite likely that the mind will entrance you with its images and/or its words. When this happens – even if you realize you have been ‘lost in thought’ for a couple of minutes – compassionately come back to the silence within. Make note of what arises next.
Continue until the alarm rings. Come back to your breath and when you are ready, open your eyes.
Be patient with yourself as you practice this. This is a form of silent meditation, which can take quite a bit of time to sink into. Even if during your first, second, or hundredth session has you lost in thought, harness patience, compassion, and curiosity for your experience
You might liken the quiet space within yourself to be the clear blue sky – and your thoughts to be the clouds that pass by. This metaphor might help you to remain unattached to the mental movements that arise. Watch from the point of view of the open sky.
You might also use a grounding phrase like ‘coming back’ to denote the return to presence. Any other mantras that are helpful for you can be used in conjunction with this practice.