One of the most common experiences as we begin our Mindfulness practice is astonishment. Most of the people I accompany in therapy feel deeply shocked when they begin to realise the state of mental turmoil in which they live almost constantly.
Becoming aware of the number of sensations, emotions and thoughts that we experience from moment to moment can be somewhat overwhelming. However, this is the way to awake to an authentic and meaningful life.
Through Mindfulness practice, we gradually train our ability to concentrate our attention – and remain focused – on a particular object. In this way, we develop greater clarity and awareness.
Focusing on an object of attention is a simple process. All you have to do is concentrate on it and return to it each time your mind wanders. The difficult part is to keep going with this process – especially at the beginning, when we aren’t used to it.
It’s a bit like starting to plant a garden: the first task should be to clear the weeds. In reality, by cultivating these states, what we’re doing is taming our mind. Success is simply a matter of perseverance and time.
Through our formal practice, we give ourselves the opportunity to keep an eye on both our internal processes and what is happening around us. We allow ourselves to develop a process of conscious self-inquiry, with kindness and without judgment. We open ourselves to each experience that arises, with acceptance and curiosity.
Mindfulness provides us with a clear path to states of greater concentration and, therefore, mental clarity and internal balance. We train ourselves to realise what we’re experiencing moment by moment, and this brings with it composure and stability.
As we learn to sustain ourselves in these states of concentration, harmony and a deep peace begin to emerge. And consequently, these states begin to be felt around us. We then start to realise how our own state is reflected, affecting our environment.
Over time, this sustained attention produces an awakening, a deep understanding that occurs simultaneously in the mind and in the heart.
A very important aspect of Mindfulness – and one that, for me, is key – is that our capacity for attention is not exercised only on the meditation cushion, but is integrated into our most ordinary and routine activities. All you need to do is focus on whatever task you’re doing at a given moment: washing your hands, making a coffee, having a snack or chatting with your sister. Whatever you’re doing, it can be done from a place of greater attention and awareness.
In fact, it’s in the activities of day-to-day life that Mindfulness practice is most necessary. It’s precisely then, when we’re busy, when we feel stressed and short of time, that we need to stop and give ourselves a couple of minutes of consciousness.
The psychiatrist Carl Jung said that “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
We must explore our mind and our heart if we wish to awake to the true nature of things. We must learn to look inward, with a mind in which composure and silence prevail. Only by joining mind and body in conscious attention can we truly experience the moment we’re living.
That is what we do every time we practise Mindfulness.
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