To live mindfully is to deliver on the commitment to live with the intention to pay attention to the present moment, every moment, moment after moment, reducing the urge and rush to judge, criticize, express likes and dislikes, or act on our desires and aversions, but just calmly observing with curiosity and accepting whatever is given to us.
To live mindfully is to live fully awake, alert, attentive, aware, and appreciative of what is going on in the here-now, in order to be fully alive.
Unfortunately, we have the tendency to give too much attention to our thoughts, especially frightening ones. By allowing our minds to run out of control, the sense of despair that arises from the illusion that we are powerless to control our lives, many times takes hold of us. In such moments it is important to ask ourselves, “What exactly am I feeling? What sensations do I feel in my body? Why am I feeling this way? What thoughts are creating these sensations and feelings in me?” and remember that the dramatic plots with tragic consequences that we have imagined in the past rarely became reality.
In a letter to John Adams dated April 8, 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us. There are indeed gloomy & hypochondriac minds, inhabitants of diseased bodies, disgusted with the present, & despairing of the future; always counting that the worst will happen, because it may happen. To these I say, How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!”
The practice of Mindfulness Meditation develops in us the ability to better observe our thoughts and emotions. By becoming more aware of what we are thinking and feeling, we become better able to control our moods, which, ultimately, alleviates suffering and enhances the quality of our lives.
As you get better at observing your thoughts, you will conclude, as I did, that we are not our thoughts, and that we should not give them too much credit. You will realize that thoughts are mysterious entities with a life of their own: they spontaneously appear and vanish, and no one really knows where they come from and where they go after they leave. You will also realize that thoughts are not always accurate. For instance, have you noticed how our minds can entertain contradictory thoughts? Have you noticed that you may be thinking one thing, one moment, and in the next you may be thinking another that is the total opposite of what you were thinking before? We have to realize that we have the ability to imagine the most absurd things, and that what we may be thinking is not always correct, and that what we may be afraid of is not certain to happen. And since our minds are like blank canvases upon which we can paint anything, we can choose not to get too involved with thoughts that produce fear, anxiety, and stress, but, instead, embrace the present moment with spaciousness, lightness, and freshness, and populate our minds with gratitude while noticing the good that surrounds us.
Mindfulness meditation is a great tool that can really enhance the quality of anyone’s life. I encourage you to meditate with regularity and be mindful of your thoughts and what may be happening in the present moment.
During meditation, the instructor will invite you to pay attention to a particular “object of attention.” Many times, this object of attention is the breath. The instructor will tell you to focus your attention on the physical sensations associated with the act of breathing. The objective of this practice is to develop the ability to focus and maintain focused attention. While observing the breath, the mind will wander; it’s normal, natural, and inevitable. You will be distracted by passing thoughts, and your mind will carry you to another place and another time, away from the here-now. Suddenly you will notice that you have been distracted, that you have not been paying attention to your breath. In that moment, it’s important to congratulate yourself for catching yourself distracted because this is the moment of mindfulness. This is the high point of the meditation practice. Catch yourself distracted and then start over. Begin again. Return to the activity of paying attention to the breath.
During the meditation the mind will wander many times. It doesn’t matter if it wanders five times, fifty times, or five thousand times. When you notice the distraction, congratulate yourself for noticing it, and start over, begin again, bringing your attention back to the breath.
Practice CCARR. Catch yourself and the distracting thought or feeling. Congratulate yourself for catching it. Acknowledge it, examine it, take a good look at it. Then release it, and return your attention to the present moment, to the here-now. And don’t criticize yourself for feeling a certain way, one that you think you should not be feeling. Be gentle with yourself, honoring and accepting what is, all the time. And remember to remind yourself often, “I am not my thoughts.”
“It’s just a thought. Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts think themselves. The thought of a thing is not that thing. The mind has a mind of its own. I am not my thoughts.”
You may want to read the second reflection on the same theme. Here’s the link:
Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.
Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”