November 4th, 2018
The concept of Mindfulness that we come across often these days, is a secular Buddhist tradition developed 2500 years ago and called Sati at the time. Sati is the first of the seven mental capacities towards enlightenment in the Buddhist practice. It is first translated into English as Mindfulness in 1881. Although it seems like it is associates with thinking since there is mind in the word itself, according to Buddha it actually means full awareness of now.
There exists various understandings on Sati / Mindfulness in different traditions, the contemporary definition of Mindfulness is done by Jon Kabat Zinn who is the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Clinic in USA.
Mindfulness; according to Kabat Zinn is an awareness state that rises when we bring our non-judgemental attention to the experience now with openness, kindness and compassion. It is not focusing the mind on something but being open to what that experience brings you in that specific moment, physically, emotionally and mentally. It is not about preventing the mind to think or to monkey from one subject to another but it is observing the mind’s movements from one thought to another while experiencing the moment. It is an open consciousness state where we become a neutral observer of the presence of now as it is. As Godfrey Devereux expresses, mindfulness is not feeling lost even when you are lost..
As the observer, we observe the inside and the outside world in a full pack.
It basically means that, while bringing our attention to the experience;
we are aware of the outside state,
watching what is going on inside,
observing the inner reflections to the outer distractors,
looking at the thoughts and emotions coming up at that specific moment
and being in all without any attunement.
During a mindfulness practice, the mind tries its best to categorise things, feelings, to analyse thoughts and to judge what is going on and why. There might be thoughts coming up like “Aha, my stomach is constrained now because of this smell brought me back to that memory..” or “That feeling is pain and why do I feel it? I was over it!”.
In mindfulness what we look for is to let go of looking for and to be in the experience with our full presence, with the presence of heart & mind & body without holding onto anything.
So if mindfulness does not aim to change the status, then why do we become mindful in our experiences?
The practice of mindfulness does not aim to change the experience itself. It just creates us the capacity and space “to be” with our experience. In a world of “to do” it is valuable to practice how “to be”.
If mindfulness aimed to change the experience, we would not be able to practice it in the real world. We all need to admit that, the real world is beyond our control and we never have the control on it. We only can develop the capacity to stay still with what is going on. This does not mean that we do not react or we do not take actions. This means that we do everything we do because we choose to do so consciously.
Being with the experience has a lot of reflections in the real life but basically the message is this :
“Do whatever you do because you choose to do so and be in whatever & wherever you are with your whole presence.”
If you are eating your dinner, just be with the food with all of your presence, awareness and attention. Just feel what you are eating, how it tastes like, how it makes you feel inside, how it smells.. And enjoy the moment of eating!
If you smoke, mindfulness will not stop you smoking. If you smoke, feel it with all of your presence. Choose to smoke consciously if you are gonna smoke. Not because you are tired, you want a break, you are angry or anxious, smoke because you choose to smoke. And while smoking, attend to the experience with all your presence, smell it, feel how it affects the internal weather, taste it, be with it and enjoy it..
And just for today, try to be in the experience whatever the experience is at the moment. Just look how does it feel like to be with those feelings, thoughts and outer reactions ? It may not always be easy and smooth. Some experiences may make you feel great, some may flow easily but some may make you feel stuck..And that is totally okey..
Some days may flow but some may require more energy and effort from your side..
Just for today, try to be in the experience as it is. Not trying to change it or manipulate it mentally, not trying to avoid it by attending the attention to other stuff.
Within the existence of now, with every breath, you inhale now and exhale the future and the past..
Just be with what is going on as it is..And observe what is going on inside & outside at that specific moment;
Give it a try !
PS : A big thank you to David Cornwell & Jon Kabat Zinn & Godfrey Devereux & Deniz Bağan & Banu Çeçen for lighting up this awareness within me..