Mindfulness: The Here and Now
I just saw Linda’s piece on mindfulness. Cool. I am right in the middle of teaching the mindfulness module for DBT. Might as well use my notes for a dual purpose.
How are you?
I am going to assume you are comfy in your favorite chair reading this page. If you are not, for a second, imagine you are.
How are you this second?
I suspect most of you said “Good.”
Wait 30 seconds...how are you this second?
I suspect the answer was again “Good.”
In the moment
Except when we have an immediate problem, such as the dog accidentally nipping my finger last evening (I am NOT a chewie!), we are generally okay in the moment. It is when we start thinking about the wouldas, couldas and shouldas and the what-ifs that we run into problems. The issue is that the wouldas, couldas, shouldas and what-ifs are all not NOW. We often ruin a perfectly good now by borrowing problems from the past and imaging problems for the future.
Live in the here and now
And that is your first lesson in mindfulness: be in the now, fully, totally and completely in the now. The Buddha said when you walk, walk. When you eat, eat. Putting your whole attention and your whole mind on what you are doing now is mindfulness.
Bringing up two more points.
First point: Technically, Buddhism is not a religion. It is a philosophy. There is no deity. You can, therefore, practice some of the practices in Buddhism without being disrespectful to your chosen faith. Also, contemplation is part of all of the major religions in the world. For example, St. Francis de Sales referred to contemplative prayer as ‘a loving, simple and permanent attentiveness of the mind to divine things.” This is mindfulness.
Going back to where you need to be
Mindfulness is cursedly difficult. The Buddha referred to the minds of man as monkey minds. Not because he thought people were not that smart but because our minds jump around like a troop of monkeys in a tree. And this leads to my second point: if your mind wanders, pick it up and gently put it back where it belongs. Mindfulness is also being aware you have strayed and going back where you need to be.
St Francis de Sale referred to mindfulness as an attentiveness. Attention is the foundation of mindfulness and in mindfulness, there are two primary ways of attending.
The first way is focused attention. Have you ever sat in front of the fire and watched flames? That’s all, just watched the flames? If I am doing that “right,” my mind stops chattering at me. My universe becomes the fire. How peaceful is it to doze in front of the fireplace? That is mindfulness.
The second way is open monitoring. The analogy is a fixed traffic camera. Cars and people come into view. They go out of view. The camera does not choose what it wants to see. It accepts all and rejects nothing. Likewise, the traffic camera cannot linger on what it wants to see. The Buddha said that attachment is the cause of suffering. A more contemporary phrasing is this; happiness is wanting what you’ve got. Got it?
I was doing some open monitoring recently. I was in “corpse pose” on a paddleboard on a local lake. With my eyes closed, I listened to the water, geese, other birds, children playing on the shore, everything there was to hear. I was mindful of my here and now and totally at peace.
Focusing on something else
Did I stop having problems in my life? Did my AMD stop getting worse? Probably not but for those minutes I was focused on floating and listening to the sounds at a lake on a beautiful summer day and that was good enough.
Happiness is being in the now and wanting what you’ve got. Got it?
How do you protect your eyes from the sun?