How do you relate to the meaning of mindfulness in your daily life?
For me, mindfulness is almost a constant. Through thorough introspection and many years of self-enquiry, I have come to learn that the only way one can achieve happiness, health and success is through mindful awareness of where we are, what we’re doing and generally what’s going on within us at any given time. I have developed a kind of quiet observer that watches over all of the happenings within my body/mind and the rise and fall of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
I was first introduced to this practice when I attended a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in New Zealand back in 2001. The practice itself dates back to the Buddha and is based on the premise that by dispassionate watching whatever arises the fire of suffering or illusion gradually burns out of its own accord. S.N. Goenka, the founder of Vipassana said
“Every sensation shares the same characteristic: it arises and passes away, arises and passes away.vIt is this arising and passing that we have to experience through practice, not just accept as truth because the Buddha said so, not just accept because intellectually it seems logical enough to us. We must experience sensation’s nature, understand its flux, and learn not to react to it.” - S.N. Goenka
This quote basically sums up how I relate to mindfulness and its importance on a daily basis and is the optimum place of full conscious awareness that I wish to be in as much as possible.
What are the challenges of becoming more mindful?
Desire, the attachment and aversion to any given place, circumstance, person or experience is the challenge of becoming more mindful. When we either try to escape or cling to anything that is not actually happening right now then we create a split in our body/mind and this then takes us out of the present moment. This then instigates numerous physiological, psychological and emotional responses which can easily flood our awareness and cause us (pure consciousness) to become lost and overrun, thus becoming partly unconscious and losing mindfulness.
For many years this situation posed a real challenge for me. I have always loved spiritual/energy practices that increase one's wellbeing, removes stress and creates inner peace etc. Yet from the standpoint of pure consciousness, to engage in these practices is to wish that the present moment was different than it actually was!
For a long time, I oscillated between practice and following the path of Zen or Advaita, from what seemed like a linear to a circular way of being. One way said that everything that we need is already here and that all we need do is to realize our own true nature and all will be well. The other said that there is a path to becoming fully conscious or enlightened and practices would allow one to walk this path eventually arrive at the goal. Yet neither of these ways brought me any lasting peace or gave me what I sought and it wasn't until I learned the combination of these two seemingly opposing paths that I began to see the way open for me.
What I eventually found as I grew was that if I stopped attaching specific desires to the outcome of my practices and understood that no matter how much I practice or what practices I do I can never change or affect my true nature and that I was already free, then the benefits of the practices started to become much easier to reach. Basically, I realised that practices were never going to ‘save me’ and indeed nothing I could ever do was going to either - because I don’t need saving!
“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” - Lao Tzu
So there’s the true me, the pure consciousness that is completely open and unaffected by anything that happens within it and then there is me that enjoys the things I enjoy. From this standpoint even the most advanced and esoteric ‘achievements’ possible such as living 500 years, levitating, growing the foetus of the Soul and travelling to other dimensions (advanced Taoist practices) could all be seen even as temporary and fleeting themselves even if they lasted for a million years because that which is observing it all is beyond it completely… Anyway, I digress slightly but this is what mindfulness has done for me.
What is the influence of mindfulness on physical or psychological health?
Because mindfulness allows us to see clearly and to detach from desired or specific outcomes it has a huge potential for positively influencing our physical or psychological health. Mindfulness allows us to begin to ‘See Clearly’.
It is this clear seeing alone that would enable people to realize that much of their suffering from physical or psychological problems are brought about by their own actions or destructive thought patterns. Then with the help of mindfulness, and by applying new behaviors and thought patterns without attachment to desired outcomes, they would then start to enable true and lasting change in their life experiences.
"The body is the gateway to the deepest level of the mind..." - Deepak Chopra
How might the challenges to developing more mindfulness be met?
The simplest way to remind ourselves to be mindful is to practice daily some form of mediation which involves just observation of the breath or similar. A friend of mine once went on a mindfulness retreat with Thich Naht Hahn at Plum Village in France and they taught to use everyday things to bring us back into the present moment and into mindfulness such as the sound of a text message, the doorbell etc.
There is definitely some work to do here also because we must learn to face what is here, for in order for us to dwell happily in the present moment we need to clear it out of clutter. Like a garden that has been allowed to become overgrown due to neglect, our own body/mind has accumulated knots, blocks and suffering that can gradually be removed and undone through the application of the pure light of consciousness.
Along the way, this process can be made easier and infinitely more enjoyable if we introduce some form of moving mindfulness such as Qigong or Tai Chi or other body/mind work.
What are the other benefits of mindfulness
Without a doubt, the single most powerful benefit of developing mindfulness is the freedom and development that will naturally arise... You will begin to release the various illusions and misunderstandings that have accumulated over the years and your true inner potential will start to unfold.
If you are like me you will want to connect with like-minded souls, who share similar values and understand and appreciate the importance of developing the miraculous gift of mindfulness...
This will open you up to a new world of opportunities and give you the ability to access your freedom and your new found sense of your own potential the in a way that enables you to create the life you love...
The meaning of mindfulness
Dan Gifford – Wellness & Energy coach
Founder of learnmeditationtoday.com
Dan has spent the last 20 years of his life travelling the world and studying the principles of happiness, health, prosperity and freedom within many different cultures and had the opportunity to learn from many masters. He has delved deep into what makes us tick and has now made it his life's work to bring his knowledge and experience to the world with one mission: To inspire others and lead them onto their true life path - creating a better world for all!
Dan is a certified Wellness coach, a master practitioner of NLP, teacher of Qigong and Taoist meditation, and practices Reiki at master level, along with other energy healing techniques.