Mindfulness: Something We Already Have
Mindfulness and its corollary, awareness, are natural aspects of everyone’s mind. We experience mindfulness whenever we are fully involved in an activity such as cooking, writing an important communication, or in a sport or art. We become so much a part of the activity that there seems to be no distinction between us and it. We experience awareness when we suddenly realize that we have been driving on automatic and have missed our turn. We have woken up to exactly where we are. These types of experiences are nonverbal and non-conceptual. They are not the same as focusing or concentrating to the extent that we don’t need to make them happen. They are not the same as thinking about an experience in the same way as remembering or imagining eating an apple is not the same as actually eating it.
Why Cultivate Mindfulness?
We can also practice mindfulness without applying it to any other activity. When we practice mindfulness for its own sake, we learn to stabilize and strengthen the mind so that we bring clarity to all of the activities of our lives, both the important and the ordinary. Using mindfulness and awareness becomes a more habitual way of living. Because we learn to recognize and let go of distractions including preoccupations such as worry and excessive planning, we are more available to experience what is actually happening at the time. We begin to discriminate the thinking that is helpful and the thinking that is cluttering or destructive. We find that when we do use our thinking mind, the ideas we generate are more creative; the decisions we make are clearer; our ability to stay with the intensity of a situation increases.
Meditation Changes the Brain