Practice: Taking Mindfulness to a New Level | iHanuman


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Practice: Taking Mindfulness to a New Level

"Mindfulness" is a word that is seen and heard more and more often these days, and the simplest definition is usually that mindfulness means to pay attention to what you are doing at the moment; do one thing at a time, and do it well. This is true, but our practice of mindfulness often stays at a pretty superficial level, and we may fail to grasp how powerful and life-saving the practice can really be. The primary purpose of mindfulness practice is to prevent the mind from running wild and always keeping us at a distance from where we are right now. Every spiritual tradition reminds us that "right now" is all that exists. If we allow ourselves to be lost in thoughts about the past or future, we are letting the present moment slip away, and then the next moment slips away and the next and the next, and our lives are over before we know it, and we feel somehow cheated from ever having "landed" square in the middle of our journey. It was always about what happened before or what comes next.
So the basic practice of mindfulness is to bring your attention to what is happening now. For example, at this moment, you are reading this article. Take a second to feel yourself sitting and breathing. Breathe consciously, smoothly. Relax your body, let go of any sense that you should be somewhere else or should be doing something else. You are here. Be here fully. Feel your hands holding this newsletter. Become aware of the sounds around you. Pay attention to detail. If someone had asked you a minute ago to shut your eyes and tell them what color paper this newsletter is printed on, would you have known? Are you paying attention?
All the martial arts are about one-pointed attention. That's all mindfulness basically is - one-pointed attention from the time you wake up 'til the time you fall asleep. Paying full attention to everything you do. When you are in severe crisis, it will be tempting to forget about mindfulness entirely, or even angrily reject it - "Screw that crap, this is real!!" But those are the times mindfulness is actually the most important. In your most depressed moments, your most anguished or panicked moments, your angriest moments, your most frightened moments, mindfulness practice can bring your attention to the simplest basic reality - being right here where you are, breathing, heart beating, blood flowing, just being here. It can free you instantly from the tyranny of a mind that is freaked out and should not be in charge. Take your energy out of the mind and into the body, the physical world, plant your feet on the solid ground of experience instead of thought. Breathing is not a thought, it is an experience. Sounds, touch, sights, tastes, smells are not thoughts. Mindfulness is to ground yourself in the experiential even if just for a moment, and then approach your difficulty from that center. Use the mind, for sure, but don't be used by it. Your center is not the mind. The mind is one of your tools, like the arms and legs. A great saint once said "The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master." Mindfulness practice -especially during our hardest times - helps us to make sure mind is the servant, not the master. In all things, big & small, bring full awareness to what you're doing.

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