Mindfulness is a state of being which is accessible to every one of us AND it is also a skill which we can cultivate more deeply in our lives.
Some experience of “mindful” presence will have been felt by all of us at moments of our lives, but perhaps we did not call it that when we experienced it. Perhaps we have felt this in more peaceful moments, when we have been present in places of natural beauty simply “breathing it in”, whether this was a beautiful sunset or standing next to the sea or a waterfall.
Perhaps we have felt this in some heightened moments, being with a loved one, during the birth of a child, or even being present with someone who is dying. These are the moments we are more likely to remember and are less likely to be distracted by other more trivial concerns. Sometimes we could have even have experienced such moments of mindful presence when we have been fully engaged in an activity which we love, like playing a musical instrument, dancing, or sitting on a sunny plaza on holiday sipping a cappuccino.
This is not our usual way of living because during our stressful lives our attention is usually in different places because we are busy juggling a number of tasks and worries at the same time.
This often means that none of our actions or thoughts receives our full attention; we move from one thing to the next, like a monkey in a tree, grabbing at things that interest us or demand our attention, then drifting on to something else, being distracted, day-dreaming, being caught up in our thoughts and worries about what happened yesterday and what we need to do tomorrow, only giving things half of our attention, not hearing fully what is said to us, pre-occupied with our own issues and concerns, judging our experiences constantly as good or bad according to our own preferences and often reacting against the way things actually are.
This is our ordinary state of mind and not exactly a peaceful one. We can spend a good part of our lives like this, not being fully present and therefore missing most of the moments in which we live, living on a sort of automatic pilot, relatively ungrounded, out of touch with ourselves, our bodies and emotions.
Learning to reverse these habits and to cultivate positive ways of being will be greatly beneficial in making our lives happier and more wholesome. When we can get in touch with qualities of mindfulness, we will feel a sense of coming back home to ourselves in a more meaningful way.
We may find we can get in touch with a sense of brightness, clarity of purpose, playfulness, creativity and inner peace. It is said that mindfulness practitioners develop a more optimistic stance in their lives, and a courage which enables them to work with rather than avoid life’s challenges. Certainly, mindfulness is not just about having more blissful moments, it is about being more fully present in our lives, remaining curious, embracing all of our experiences, and most importantly, changing the relationship we have towards our suffering.