Has anyone else notice an explosion in the use of the word “mindfulness”? It seems that every topic – secular or spiritual – all have the term “mindful” in the title. Mindful Eating. Mindful Parenting. Mindful Gardening. Even “mindful meditation”. (Really? Isn’t all meditation mindful? Apparently not.)
Turns out mindfulness is more than being aware; it’s about bringing all of our energy, being fully present – body, attention, emotion – to what we are doing. And the payoff is that we find our self in a sacred moment. As I am beginning to learn it, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhât Hanh saw us in North America being so busy racing around that we weren’t fully living. Our bodies were busy, racing from one thing to the next, our minds were doing the same thing, preoccupied, flitting from one idea to the next, we were missing the point of it all.
We are so busy Doing, we are not Being, we are unaware of the sacred and precious that which is present in that moment. With mindfulness, we are “training the monkey-mind”; pretty accurate, eh?
If we know it’s bad for our body and our mind and our emotional well-being, to be running all the time, why do we do it? I wonder if we’ve “drunk the kool-aid” believing that “time is money”, so to waste either makes us somehow “less than”? Does doing three things at once, or squeezing in one more activity, moving onto the next task before we’ve quite finished the one we’re on, make us more worthy? How do you feel when you are multi-tasking? How does it affect your zest for life?
As I am learning, Mindfulness invites us bring all of our awareness to one task at a time. To focus our mind, all of our body’s energy, all of our heart’s connection to What We Are Doing, right now; beginning with the breath, to slow everything down and focus On This Moment. Harder than it sounds. That’s why it’s called a “practice”; we must try and try again. But it is worth the effort.
For example, I confess that often when I’m knitting I am thinking about something else. But as I practice mindful knitting, when the monkey-mind is dampened,
I become fully present to what I am doing right now. I see how amazing the body is: that I can breathe without thinking about it, that my eyes can see, that the hand is so very intricate. I notice how the yarn feels slipping across fingers, the variances in depth of colour and texture. I feel profound amazement as I bring all my mind and heart to what my hands are doing. I become aware of all the elements, creatures, and people which have been involved in bringing the yarn to me, and having the money to buy it; I am brought to deep gratitude. When I am practicing mindfulness, fully present to the moment I am in, I become awed; I touch the reality of Being Alive and connected, and am touched by the Sacred. Harder than it sounds, but worth the practice. And I am only just beginning.
*Thanks to uhs.umich.edu for the great “Mind-full or Mindful” image! and 123rf-4752720 for “hands knitting”