Through my long drawn experience I have come to understand how the concept of living in the moment, better known as Mindfulness can liberate you from all of your Dukkha (Suffering). Our whole existence as humans is based on this concept of awareness. When you are fully living in the present moment, you are free from the clutches of the past and the apprehensions of the future. These two tenses, the past and the future, do not infiltrate your life with more suffering. You are free, like the bird you see in the sky that flies without worrying about shelter, home, food or water. Flying is what it does best and its entire existence revolves around flying freely with the wind. Have you ever seen a bird trying to secure a mortgage from a bank to buy shelter, or stock food in the refrigerator for the winters or worry about who is going to hunt it down the next minute? No! The bird simply flies; it spreads its wings, gets on with what is happening right now without the slightest worry for tomorrow or regrets for the past.
We term ourselves as the most intelligent of all creations. We take pride in our superficial intelligence. But why do I call our intelligence superficial? We have created every bit of the technology to help us become more comfortable, modernised and evolved. However, does this make one truly happy? We are being dishonest about this artificial and superficial intelligence that we define ourselves with. If you are not convinced about this then let me ask you a question that will probably simplify your belief in the above statement:
Answer this – Are you truly happy now?
Take a moment and close your eyes before you answer this question. After a moment’s pause, tell me, what do you see?
- Do you see the apprehensions of tomorrow?
- Do you see the horrifying past that you cannot deal with and are running away from?
- Do you see happy moments you once had and the sadness that prevail around you now?
- Do you see a longing for true love, wealth, money, a certain goal which is unaccomplished and that continues to burden you?
If your answer to one or all of the above is Yes, then you must read what comes next. My dear friend, my answer to the above one or all is also a yes. I am no exception to the Dukkha (suffering) that hounds us. Each of us is a slave of the past or the future. But I have come to realise a certain way to eradicate this mindlessness and free myself from the dynamics of dukkha. A life without attachment is what I am trying to emphasise, a life without desire is what leads to salvation, liberation and eternal everlasting happiness. But how on earth can two simple individuals like you and me even attain this? Good question!
I can help you formulate an action plan for your life starting now that will lead to enlightenment at least on the mental level. By that I mean the conscious level, not spiritual. Spiritual enlightenment can only come through practice and perfection in how one’s understands Nirvana. This is a topic for another day when both you and I are more evolved in our understanding about the Nirvana. Today we shall focus only on achieving Mindfulness in this present mad world.
I have broken down this article into five important parts to help you achieve Mindfulness – Present Moment Awareness: the first two aspects would be covered in this article, the other three will be covered in another article and shall be published soon.
- Why be Mindful
- How do we attain Mindfulness
III. Understanding Impermanence (Anicca)
- Understanding Aimlessness (Apranahita)
- Books on Mindfulness training
Why be Mindful?
Before we discuss why we should be mindful, I’ll delve a little into what mindfulness is. It is nothing but simple awareness of the moment. Whatever you are doing right now, if you are completely aware of your actions, involved completely in the act, a total concentrated absorption of what you are doing, without your mind wandering away every second into a new thought, then you are being mindful. But 99.99 per cent of us are mindless for about 99.99 per cent of the time. We are slaves of our ever evolving, the so called intelligent mind. It’s like we have created missiles, but have no time to speak with our neighbours. We have created coffee shops but we barely have the time to enjoy the coffee peacefully and silently. Our intelligent mind makes us do every bit of the intellectual thinking so brilliantly that we have accepted this is what our life is all about – creation, destruction, recreation. This is all we do and waste our time. How many of us have actually ever sat with our morning tea doing nothing but drinking it mindfully, absorbed in every sip, smelling the aroma of the tea, feeling the tingling taste of the aromatic tea on our tongue, feeling its warmth go down our throat, travel through our food pipe into the stomach? How aware are we about drinking our tea? Well, I am sure we are not at all aware about drinking the tea mindfully. What we instead do while drinking the tea is multitask – pick up the paper, be involved in a heated discussion, haphazardly complete the chores while sipping on this freshness and, most importantly, if none of this, then think about what our mind wants to make us think like apprehensions of tomorrow, the next moment or even issues of the past. The moment we are mindful of doing the things that we are involved in (i.e. with complete awareness) we have attained freedom for that moment from our sufferings. All that we need to do is to learn to harness mindfulness and apply it to every simple, difficult act in our life. The act may range from drinking tea to creating bridges, from eating a simple dinner to developing a new business concept. When we are here, in the moment and not anywhere else, we have attained the power of now. We are free from the clutches of our mind which only runs ceaselessly from one thought to the other. When we are doing something mindfully, we are completely involved in the action. There is no room for doubt, sadness or worry. We are simply here in the now, enjoying every bit of the work to be carried out. If a moment of mindfulness can give so much pleasure and take away sadness, then imagine what an hour of mindfulness can do. It can liberate us from all our worries and miseries.
How do we attain Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be developed by practising present moment awareness. All that you need to do is remind yourself to be where you are. This practice can be applied to your walks, conversation, work, hobby etc. Do whatever you are doing without letting your mind escape into its own world of thoughts. Do not wander away with your minds ceaseless thinking. The moment you realise you are not here but somewhere else, bring back your attention to the act you are involved in. Do this repeatedly, constantly and gently. Do not be harsh on yourself and do not lose patience if you see yourself wandering too often. Treat your mind like a baby – it knows nothing except to playfully wander away. You are its teacher and you need to gracefully and gently bring it back to where you want it to be, in the act. Initially I thought that the best way to do this was to renounce everything and lead a monastic life, absorbed in meditation. Yes, meditation is the best way to train one’s mind, but for a householder such renunciation is out of the question. Therefore it’s best to synergise mindfulness in your daily life. My favourite author and Buddhist teacher, ThichNhat Hanh says a “simple act of dish washing too can liberate you”. And it truly can if you are involved in every bit of its actions starting from feeling the water, the soap, the hardness of the dishes, cleaning the vessels gently, rinsing them under the cold gushing water and putting them back in place. A simple act of walking can be done mindfully too. Take every step mindfully- know it’s your right leg that’s up and left down, now it’s the left leg up and right down. Feel the ground, the fresh air, the panting of the breath and know you are here in the now. Mindfulness can be practised anywhere, anytime. For the modern people who are always on the phone, be on the phone with the person with whom you are conversing and don’t let your mind wander to what’s happening in the background, ahead of you, behind you or what will happen after you hang up. When you write an email, be there and nowhere else; do not think of the email’s outcome, don’t expect what will come next, simply be involved in writing and give your best to the email that you writeWhen making a presentation, be there and nowhere else. Do not worry about what others will think of your presentation, how your boss will react, whether you will be promoted after the presentation, etc. Just be involved fully, mindfully. This is how one can attain mindfulness in our daily lives. Every time your mind wanders away with the thinker, let the observer in you bring it back gently to the present moment. Every time you drift away with a thought, let the observer in you bring it back to where you should be. Initially this will be difficult as you will see your mind running ceaselessly into mindless thoughts. Laugh at its antics and come back to where you should be, in the present. When you are with your child, love the child completely and be with him/her fully. Do not let the worries of the past or the future infiltrate this moment. Keep your mind fixed on how the child responds to your speech, your love, caress and affection. Enjoy every bit of present moment awareness and your mind will gradually be tamed. Mindfulness can be attained in every second of the 24 hours of the day. You can start right now while you are reading this article!
If you liked this article, then hit the button ‘subscribe’ to receive regular updates on coaching modules and new write ups. Karmel Nair is a Certified Life Coach, Psychotherapist and 52 times Published Global Author. For queries, feel free to write to her at email@example.com