Mindfulness; awareness of present experience and being aware of your thinking can change your life. It takes practice and daily observation to notice your thoughts and environment yet no time at all to explore and experiment. You can try it right now as you read this Blog Post. As you read, become aware of your environment and how your senses and your body are relating to the space around you. Notice also any thoughts you might have about what you are reading and other thoughts unrelated to these words.
Awareness of thoughts and environment helps anchor you in the present moment which in turn also helps you consider the bigger picture – things going on outside of your own thinking and experiences. You could travel the world via your own thinking without going anywhere!
A great experiment is to observe an object whilst focusing your attention entirely on your breathing. This encourages thoughtless awareness – observing the object without thought, labels or judgments. A tricky exercise at first because the mind wants to analyse the object yet by focusing on your breathing you can sense an acceptance of the object without labels. Observation of breath reduces your thoughts and helps you stop thinking which encourages relaxation and also aids meditation. This exercise helps you tune in effortlessly to the present experience; which is being mindful.
You might also call it noting or noticing, for example, to notice when you pick up a cup that you can feel the cup, noticing the liquid as you drink and recognising the temporary nature (transience) of all of it.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of whatever you are aware of. Not being physically aware (or mindful) of environment can lead to tripping on the stairs or spilling drinks and the like. Not being aware (or mindful) of your thinking can lead to being dragged away from the present moment by past or future thinking.
A further useful exercise is to sit in your garden or in nature or go for a walk in the country and focus entirely on your surroundings. Watch the wind, watch nature, birds, animals, enhance your senses; simply notice where you are and as a consequence the appreciation is greater.
Books that helped me detach from constant identification with thought:
- Stop Thinking and Start Living by Richard Carlson
- Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
- Buddhism: The Plain Facts by Robert Mann & Rose Youd
- Mindfulness for Beginners (Audio CD) by Jon Kabat-Zinn