Welcome to today’s instalment of a week of mindfulness. If you missed yesterday’s don’t worry you can just click on the link below for a catch up.
There are two main themes to living mindfully:
• Living fully in the moment
• Embracing a non-judgemental relationship with yourself and your experiences
Living fully in the moment
How much of our daily lives do we spend living in the past or future, ruminating about things we have done or not done, worrying about what might happen in the next hour, day, week or year? Whilst doing one activity we are often thinking about what we are going to be doing later in the day, or thinking about something that happened last week. This is referred to as the Doing mode, and yes it is important and indeed necessary that we engage in the world this way from time to time in order to manage the many demands of our lives.
Living fully in the moment is referred to as the Being mode. There are so many activities and experiences we have every day that we do on automatic pilot, missing out on often the simple beauty of what we may perceive to be a mundane activity, such as:
• Really feeling the warmth of a shower on our muscles,
• Truly tasting and smelling the aromas of the food we eat,
• Fully seeing the beauty of the outside world whether it be trees, architecture or people.
• Or even a strange as it may seem, allowing ourselves to be with the very many difficult physical sensations/emotions our life might bring.
I have always found a lovely way to remind myself to transition from a doing mode into a being mode is to remember we are HUMAN BEINGS not HUMAN DOINGS. Being in the moment more often has the potential to really open up and develop our love, appreciation and clarity in ways we would not expect.
Embracing a non-judgemental relationship with yourself and your experiences
So, what does it mean to be non-judgemental? We all make a wide range of judgements every day: about ourselves, somebody else, an object, basically anything in the world around us. Judging is obviously an integral part of being human, helping us form beliefs and make decisions. There are many instances when the judgements we make are actually an integral part of our innate wish to survive.
However, we frequently make judgements based upon our initial thoughts, subconscious processes, impulses and desires, often caught up in complex emotions and unhelpful patterns we have developed during our lives. During mindfulness we are encouraged to take a step back and observe what is happening within us from a compassionate perspective, being non-judgemental of whatever our experiences may be in that moment. When we start to observe our judgements towards our experiences, providing space for our ability to respond rather than react, we are more able to exist with whatever comes our way. It also gives us the space to be with our experiences for what they are in their simplest form – a moment in time.
This all too familiar human tendency to try to resist and judge our experiences is unsurprisingly also integral to the practice of mindfulness itself. When we make new goals or integrate something different into our lifestyle, we have a tendency to beat ourselves up when we do not achieve things in a certain way. We are a complex bunch with a propensity to perpetuate the very patterns we are working on changing – the unending ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’.
I cannot recollect the sheer number of times when I have thought to myself, either during a structured mindfulness practice or at some point during the day, such things as:
‘I am not doing this practice right, my mind keeps wandering’
‘Why do I keep dozing off during my meditation? I should be able to stay awake and complete my practice’
‘If only I had used mindfulness to cope with that situation rather than letting things spiral out of control in the way that they did’.
I would like to finish today’s installment with two eloquent quotes from the book Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana summarising these two themes of mindfulness beautifully:
“it is impossible for us to be aware of what’s going on inside us and in our environment if [we] are busy rejecting its existence.”
“Whatever experience we are having, mindfulness just accepts it… No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake – what is there is there.”
A week of mindfulness will continue tomorrow, where I will discuss what mindfulness practice actually entails.
Wishing you all a mindful evening, night or day wherever you are.