The Dalai Lama embodies someone who has perfected the art of mindfulness, the ability to be present in the now
Today, my goal was to be mindful. In other words, my primary concern, just for this day, was to only exist in the present moment. To become fully aware of each nuance, of each subtlety of my surroundings, using my five senses. To become fully engaged when another person spoke – not just focussing on their words, but also their body language, and the emotional content behind what they were saying. Finally, I aimed to become fully self-aware – of my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and tuggings of intuition, and to be aware that I was aware, and to refocus when I noticed I had ceased to be so.
The way I approached this task was to be in the present, not in the past or the future – present in current thoughts and feelings which occurred in response to what was occurring in my environment. I noticed my surroundings using my five senses, and took the role of an observer, rather than an analyser. Instead of hearing another person, I endeavoured to be fully with them when they spoke.
My first conclusion after this day of trying to be fully conscious was that it is no easy accomplishment. I was constantly involuntarily pulled away from full awareness by worries, distractions, bodily sensations, and also because, that is what minds do. Nonetheless, I realised that, as I have been advised of before regarding the practice of mindfulness, this is totally normal, and one should not be dissuaded from the task because one can’t do it perfectly.
The other conclusion I drew from mindfulness practice was that the benefits of it made it worthwhile, in my mind, to practice it whenever I had the opportunity. These positive effects were more pronounced and greater in number than I expected. These were:
• Noticing things I had not been aware of before. Therefore, my concentration for what is going on improved. Colours, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings are enhanced, enriching the experience of life.
• Greater self-awareness. Not distracted by the stream of irrelevant thoughts, it is easier to tune into reactions to stimuli via bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is easier to hone in to what’s important to us, what our beliefs are and how we truly feel about the events around us.
• A decrease in anxiety. When we are present, we cannot, at the same time, be living in the past or in the future. Ruminations of the past can lead to regret and sadness and anticipations of future events can be anxiety-provoking. When in the present, these thoughts are irrelevant to carrying out the task at hand, or noticing what is happening immediately around us and thus, we can be more positive and relaxed. In fact, mindfulness can create a sense of peace that is seemingly unobtainable by engaging in other endeavours.
• We function better in all relationships. Again, this is a result of not being distracted by anything irrelevant, or in other words, not being fully aware of the now utilising the five senses. So, during conversation, we stay on track better, and we listen and are present to body language more effectively when the other party is talking, and thus can respond more appropriate.
Mindfulness is not easy, and it can be terribly frustrating. However, when it is practiced, unnecessarily painful thoughts and feelings can be take a backward step, and life take on more meaningful as we absorb what actually is: the true reality.
•Greater acceptance. When we are mindful we don’t tag our thoughts and feelings as good or bad. We don’t see our thoughts and feelings as being reality, leading to a need to analyse them or fix them, leading to more thoughts and feelings