Wise Mindfulness — the joy of being fully present

As you read these words, sense in to what is going on in this moment. Your eyes are activated. What else do you notice? Can you feel the pull of gravity as pressure on your seat or feet? What else? Pay attention to all your senses that anchor you in this moment.

Mindfulness is noticing what’s happening in this moment rather than getting lost in thought. The habituated mind is zoned out and often does things that are unskillful, acting on impulses and other murky motivations. The mind that is attuned to the moment uses all senses to register the various components that make up any given experience.
People think meditation is about getting rid of thoughts and they don’t feel this is possible for them, so they don’t think they could meditate. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding that keeps so many people from a natural healthy activity that makes such a difference in how we experience life.

In meditation, we don’t need to bother racing around trying to herd our thoughts. It would be like wrangling cats. An impossible task! Instead we create a quality of spaciousness in which the cats can play, but lo and behold they eventually settle down. If you pay attention you can see that there’s much more – and less – in this experience of spaciousness than just busy thoughts.

In the experience of being fully present in this moment, we may notice many sources of information coming through our various sensors. We can register ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ or ‘warm’ or ‘chilly’. We might notice a response to the temperature: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. We might notice physical responses: sweat, chills, goose bumps; and the urge to put a sweater on or take one off. These are all going on all the time, but we have been on autopilot.  Now we take the time to really notice all these ‘automatic’ activities.

There is also pressure, the interaction of the force of gravity on our body, pressing it into the ground or the chair. When’s the last time you really noticed that sensation?
What are the other senses, and how do you experience them in this moment? Sounds? Textures? Odors? Light and dark? Color? A twinge, an itch, an ache? The breath drawing air, pulling it down, and then releasing it?

All of this is going on, and yet most of us are oblivious to it. We don’t pay attention these ongoing experiences because our minds are caught up in storytelling, problem solving, judging, planning, rewriting history, placing blame and wishing.  All of this is going on in our thoughts, yet we are rarely aware of it – rarely aware that we are having those same thoughts over and over and over again.

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone, and find that they just keep repeating themselves? Yes? Well, they’re not the only ones. We each have interior monologues – maybe we don’t all voice them and bore other people with them – but if we pay attention to the ongoing brain chatter, we quickly find we’ve got a rather limited set of reruns on a continuous loop! What’s more, if we were to trade thoughts for a day with another person, we’d find that these thoughts would have very similar patterns. We explored this in the Five Aggregates and found that our thoughts and emotions are not who we are, they don’t make us unique. In fact, human thoughts and emotions are universal in their limited range of possible reactions to situations.

Given all this, why would we want to be mindful? No wonder we go on autopilot! Strangely though, paying attention, being in the moment, isn’t at all boring! Yes, there’s the noticing of patterns of thought, but then we see the judging of the patterns, and then we see the struggles. If we can bring metta, loving kindness, into the mix, then our active attention becomes Wise Mindfulness.

Without loving kindness, there will always be a struggle, maybe even a civil war inside. No wonder we suffer when we are constantly enduring and reenacting a battle of rude comments, harsh judgments, and hurt feelings.

Universal loving kindness is a tapped-in understanding that doesn’t make excuses, doesn’t provide justifications. It simply provides spaciousness and tenderness with which to hold all of what is going on.
How does a wise parent or grandparent or teacher handle a child having a temper tantrum? With attention and kindness; not indulgence, but a deep understanding of the nature of being human. Wise Mindfulness is this level of attention infused with universal loving-kindness.

With our cooking pot analogy, Wise Mindfulness is the contents of the pot, the soup or stew we are cooking up. Next week we’ll talk about the spoon that stirs the contents: Wise Concentration.

But until then give yourself every possible opportunity to experience Wise Mindfulness. Commit yourself to a regular sitting practice. Infuse mindfulness into regular activities, like walking the dog, exercising and doing household chores. Mindfully listen as a relative, friend or co-worker talks. Let go of any sense of a goal when you are running errands. The errands will still get done, but you will have been fully in the moment, experiencing this body moving through space with ease. 

Let me know your thoughts on this.

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