The Magic of mindfulness

If I tell you that we practice time travel every single day, you would say I’m making things up. But just come to reflect on our thought processes. Almost all the time, we are either thinking about what happened in the past or contemplating about what will happen in the future. How much time do we spend thinking and being in the present, in the now?

Like the ancient Zen tale about two monks who were crossing a river. A beautiful woman stood there helpless before the gushing waters and requested the monks to help her. ‘How can you help a woman? We’re monks” said the first one. But the second monk nonetheless carried the woman on his back and dropped her safely on the other bank. When the two resumed their journey, the second monk kept a disgruntled silence till they reached their monastery when he complained that the first monk had carried a woman. The first monk turned around and said, “I carried the woman to help her and left her there. But you seem to be carrying her in your head even now”. That, for me, is a great example of mindfulness, living in the present.

Remember the 2000 Christopher Nolan film Memento? Its protagonist had short term memory loss and could not form fresh memories due to an injury. He couldn’t also imagine the future. No resentment about what happened in the past, no anxiety about the future. In fact, for all of us, the only time we have control over, is now. So being fully aware, being alive through all our senses to devour the current moment and experiencing it to its fullest is what mindfulness is all about.

Picture this. You’re standing at the Niagara along with your family. You see thousands of people not looking at the spectacular waters but being busy in taking photographs of themselves, of the waters, of people and thinking about the angles in which they can take Instagram worthy pictures. Or the young man at the restaurant busy clicking the plates as they arrive, to create drool-worthy pictures for sharing on his timeline. He would fail to appreciate the plating, the ingredients of the food, the color, texture, taste and even the pleasure of having food with your friends and loved ones. What will stay back is the pictures, not the satisfaction of the taste and the food.

Human minds are wired for thousands of years to be reactive to situations and stimuli around them in a bid to stay safe. That’s a very primitive adaptation technique which has surpassed its need today. We don’t need to react to everything happening around us all the time now but we still do it. And to add to it, there’s the overdose of sensory stimuli that keep distracting us.

Mindfulness helps us being in the present without letting the mind wander in the past or the future, not being reactive or feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening and simply witnessing the goings on. Once a friend of mine told me that The Bhagwad Gita, the ancient text of the Hindus, has an entire chapter dedicated to the characteristics of a ‘Sthitapradnya’  or what we call a balanced, mindful person who does not experience emotions. He knows life happens for him and not to him. That makes a huge difference in perception.

Where can we apply mindfulness

Just about every moment of the day.

  • While meditating
  • While having food
  • While working
  • While walking, exercising, jogging
  • While watching a film or a play
  • While meeting friends or spending quality time with family

How does mindfulness help? Oh! It helps the mind, body, heart and soul!

Not just the adults but even the kids and the elderly.

  • Mindfulness helps in achieving peace of mind. The mind is a constant chatterbox. It needs to keep talking, whether you’re listening or no. Training yourself to ignore unnecessary chatter gradually quiets the mind.
  • It helps us focus better on the task at hand. Whether we’re working on our project, or playing music or cooking or even strolling in the park.
  • You feel much less exhausted at the end of a busy day because you have saved the energy usually spent in thinking about the past and present. You feel energetic
  • Your health improves. Less stress, less fussing about and being disgruntled means you trouble your heart and mind less. A healthy mind nourishes a healthy heart. A healthy body means a stronger immune system and a shield against cardiovascular diseases.
  • You experience happiness in simple things because you have stopped reacting to everything.
  • Relationships get better, with your spouse, kids or friends because you give full justice to every moment spent with them.
  • You become more empathetic and share concerns with other people, at work and at home
  • Realizing that you now get better ideas, better and quicker solutions to problems and are able to remember better gives you added joy.

Though mindfulness training may take some time, its impact is for a lifetime. Once you learn how mindfulness helps you in every aspect of your life, rarely do you wish to go back to your impulsive self. That’s something akin to tasting the magic potion.

How do you learn mindfulness

Mindfulness is not a new concept; it has been an integral part of the meditation practices of the Eastern religions for several millennia. The western techniques of mindfulness owe a lot to the teachings of the Eastern philosophies. People who regularly practice Yoga, are adept at keeping their mind and body still and in perfect harmony to nature. Several new age authors, Gurus and spiritual masters like Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra , Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Devdutta Patnaik,  Shri Shri Ravishankar,  Wayne Dyer, Alan Watts, Kabat-Zinn have spoken and explained the benefits of mindfulness through their videos, retreats, books and workshops.

In the VUCA world and an era of heightened stress, tapping the ancient technique that the world swears by for being effective, is something we can do easily.

Have you practiced mindfulness yet? Would you like to know more about these techniques? Do comment and share your experiences.

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