Our use of the word ‘mind’ in English can be quite versatile. As a noun it describes our awareness, consciousness and thought, as a verb it can mean ‘to take care of’ like in ‘mind the child’ or when getting on a train ‘mind the gap’, so to be ‘mindful’ is to increase our awareness and consciousness and to take care of our thinking and feelings.
So we ‘mind the mind’, we take care of it. All the time we remain mindful, we are watching our thoughts, emotions and actions and this act in itself is life changing. Most of the time we are not aware of them because we are them, this is the mindless state as written in the Dhammapada – ‘The mindless are as if dead already’.
When we start to watch and take care of ourselves we begin the process of investigating why we think or do things and the effect those actions have on ourself, others and our environment, this means we become aware of our karma and also begin ‘minding’ others and the world around us.
We realise that we have the choice – ‘alive, aware, caring and careful’ or ‘dead, thoughtless, not caring and zombie like’, it’s scary when we realise how many ‘zombies’ there are in the world and that we were one of them – and will continue to be if we don’t practice mindfulness continuously!
Any activity that brings us to this calm, aware, focused and sensitive state is mindfulness training, focusing on our breath and/or a calming activity like Tai Chi, walking, sitting, standing or laying down, with good posture and deep breathing will help, too often people become ‘result driven’ and try too hard finding it self defeating. Good posture, deep breathing, allowing and watching the thoughts come and go will gradually reduce the activity of of the brain and bring us to that lovely mindful state where we become aware that we are far more than just one individual, isolated, emotionally damaged, zombie.
When we are in this engaged, mindful state we realise that by letting go our negativity, life becomes much easier as we become more emotionally intelligent, can see all points of view and not want to create unnecessary harm and friction. The irony is that we are more likely to live a happy successful life with meaning and purpose when we can ‘fit in’ with the right kind of lifestyle and people.
Good posture and deep breathing alleviates excessive tension and calms both mind and body, this reduces damage in the body, lowers blood pressure and reduces the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke and many other related illnesses. It helps us to engage with others and a learning environment, meaning that whilst alive we are learning and using the brain cognitively, reducing the chance of dementia and other forms of early demise.
‘Mindfulness is the path to the deathless – the mindful never die, the mindless are as if dead already’ – Dhammapada 21
There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t begin a mindful life from this moment on, I started 40 years ago and have not regretted a single ‘engaged’ moment….