What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is, as its name suggests, becoming fully aware of what is in the present, the “here and now.” Easy! Are you going to tell me? Well, not so easy because our lives are, for the most part, dictated by our mind, by our instinctive reactions, by our education, by society and by automatic patterns of actions and reactions. Not to mention our judgments, speculations and criticisms that take us into a perpetual inner dialogue and prevent us from taking full advantage of what is in the present moment. We are constantly projecting ourselves into the future, into our next actions or in the past; doing so distances us from the present moment. We are finally in an illusion of the present moment but we are not really there, our mind is elsewhere, it is actually in many places at the same time but very rarely here and now.
Very often in daily life, we do not pay attention to what we do. We run with the flow of our lives as if some autopilot was on. Besides we have our little habits. Our mind seems to be following its own course. It will stand as a separating veil with the actual present moment, the simple, the pure. As soon as we look inside ourselves, the mind will analyze, label, judge and comment, and in doing so we disturb our state of consciousness that moves away from mindfulness.
But how to cultivate the present moment and mindfulness?
Mindfulness is not a religion as some might think, it’s just a mental training method. It takes patience and perseverance, and trust me it’s not always easy. Mindfulness does not prevent us from moving forward in life, it allows us to see the world more clearly in order to act with more wisdom and hindsight. We are then in adequacy with our deep Being.
The first step for this is to calm our mind. To leave behind our incessant flow of thoughts, judgments and other projections and to rediscover inner calm.
There is no miracle recipe, because mindfulness is not acquired in one go, it has to be cultivated. Thoughts will come back again and again, because they are part of us but, with full awareness, you will learn to channel them, to observe them and to no longer identify with them. The goal is to find a new way of dealing with your thoughts so that you do not react any more but act. Therefore you no longer instinctively follow reflexes of reactions caused by this or that thought, but rather observe them, see them coming, and decide freely on your actions. You are no longer in automatic pilot mode, but you take control of your actions, your are present.
What tools to cultivate mindfulness?
The best known tool for practicing mindfulness is meditation. Meditation allows us to take the time to observe what is happening within ourselves. Our thought patterns, our reactions, our wounds, etc. It is a mental training to tame our thoughts and to stop the identification with them. You will not be able to suppress your thoughts, do not look for it, do not fight with it, but just observe them just as they come and go. There are many meditation techniques to cultivate mindfulness, such as concentrating on your breathing or becoming aware of your different senses for example. But regardless of the technique the key to success is regular practice.
I invite you to read the books D’Eckart Tollé “the power of the present moment” as well as the works of Matthieu Ricard and Christophe André on this subject.
Another simple way to cultivate the present moment is to relax in nature and observe it using your five senses or to be fully aware of everyday actions, such as climbing steps or washing dishes. All actions can be done in awareness and become exercises of presence.