Book Excerpt – Intro to Mindfulness – Where are You and What are You Doing??

How often are you really conscious of what you are doing?

From Chapter 14 on Wellness

You will notice a recurring theme as each zone is discussed. That theme is mindfulness. For now, let’s use “awareness” as a working definition of mindfulness. By awareness, I mean the act of being completely conscious, in real time, of whatever you are doing, saying, sensing, or thinking. Awareness does not include judging, contemplating, considering, or criticizing; it means noticing, letting go, and noticing. Whatever the phenomenon is, notice it, let it go, and notice what happens.

At times, when observing your thoughts, you might notice that they often, or always in my case, come in the form of a voice. In other words, you likely think in a language. Sometimes, the “voice” is having a conversation in your head. Occasionally, you might find yourself participating in the conversation and other times you might not pay attention to most of what is said. Often, the voice will skip around from thought to thought, from conversation to conversation, for no particular reason. It has this need always to be “doing something.”

When you are mindful, don’t try to interfere with the “voice” or the thoughts that are moving through your consciousness. Just watch them. Don’t judge them or criticize them; certainly, do not criticize yourself for any thoughts you notice. Simply notice, and let them pass. If you feel an overwhelming urge to react to a thought, just say quietly, “Isn’t that interesting?” and then let it go. Sometimes it helps to gently turn your focus to your breathing.

People often believe that a mindfulness practice requires sitting meditations and other formal activities. These practices certainly add to the overall, long-term experience. However, when you are getting started, it can be much simpler. There are many activities that we perform day to day, that we notice slightly more than the act of breathing. You can start by being aware of what is happening as you do these things. Take a close look at brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, and driving.

When you brush your teeth, notice how the bristles feel as they cross your gums; how many individual bristles can you feel? Taste the mint of the paste; feel the coolness of the rinse water. When you wash the dishes, notice the temperature of the water; is it higher or lower than 98 degrees? Feel the suds on your skin, as the bubbles pop—can you hear the suds? Try to notice the subtle sensations that you started taking for granted years ago. As you drive, notice where your mind goes. Bring it back to driving and try to notice how long it takes to drift off on its own again. How often are you “really” driving?

During your day, take a moment here and there just to notice where you are, what you are doing, what you are thinking. You might be surprised at how much you have been missing, as your undisciplined mind roamed aimlessly from thought to thought.

Mindfulness is an essential element of the healing process for a variety of reasons, and by practicing it, you will open new and exciting opportunities for you and your consciousness. For now, we will just focus on one main important benefit. When we are mindful, or aware, we are in the present moment. When we are mindful, or aware, we find it difficult to regret the past or fear the future, because we cannot be anywhere but present.