A choice between two worlds – Mindfulness
“Man’s lack of self-awareness is the cause of all sins and crimes” – Martin Versfeld, South African philosopher.
© Jorgan Harris. jorganharris.co.za
1. The two worlds
You have a choice between two worlds: one limited, minute and scary. The other beautiful, wonderful and prosperous.
Most of us find ourselves in the first. The unconscious mindless life.
Years ago, there was a beer commercial where everyone looked alike, dressed the same fancy clothing and all were having the same kind of beer, whilst listening to the white noise which sounded like the bleating of sheep. Suddenly a man entered the bar, wearing white pants and a floral shirt. He was completely different to the rest and ordered a different type of beer. Everyone stared at him. He was completely out of place.
Most of us, however, live like we were raised to live. We are computerised to be like the Jones’. Just to fit in. We need to grow up, finish school, if we are lucky we get a tertiary education and then start a career. We work to make our lives as comfortable as possible simply to live and to be comfortable. We get married, have children. We work and get a house with white picket fences, a garden and a dog. We raise our children and do our work daily faithfully. We work to retire, receive a golden watch and relax on the porch. Make sure our will is in order and eventually die. What a miserable, predictable and dictated life to live!
After all, this is how most of us live our lives. We chase after achievements, we live in pursuit of wealth. We boast on Facebook about our successes and those of our children.
This is an empty and mindless life. Our daily routine exists out of what is expected of us. We follow our mundane routine – going to work (mostly hating it), fetch the kids and have supper in front of the TV barely aware of what and how much we are devouring. Spending countless hours with meaningless activities, just as a distraction. To forget about our colourless lives for a second, we spend countless hours doing meaningless activities, just as distraction. Just to be repeated the next day, tomorrow. Grateful for weekends that brings a welcome, but short lived change to this boring life. Then we succumb to many more of our addictions. Whether eating, drinking, buying, gambling, drugs, sex, smoking, or whatever it is to forget. Constantly trying to fill the empty barrel.
It’s also a terrifying, fearsome life. In this life, you become what society expects of you. You lose the faith you had in yourself and allow society to judge you. Comparing your achievements to the people around you, resulting in constant self-doubt. You lose all self-respect, start to feel scared and anxious. Feeling worthless.
At this juncture, you start grabbing at anything and everything just to help you cope.
This world has no purpose, no meaning. It is an empty and meaningless world. You are confused and just trying to survive. The negativity of this world overwhelms you to such an extent that the beauty of it all surpasses you.
Then there is the other world.
In this world, there is life. It is being. There’s existence. There is pure thought. There is the Great Mind (God). Here, you are a product of God’s mind. In this world, you are infinitely unique. In this world, your earthly existence is only a small part of your eternal existence where you are from God and part of God. In this world, you know only that you have a task to complete, not always knowing what this entails. In this world, you are important to God and responsible to God. In this world, you do not feel inferior. You do not feel you have to escape reality.
In this world, you are no longer afraid but filled with awe. Filled with the awe of the greatness we experience every day. Consumed by the beauty of our universe and the obscurity and greatness of it, unaware of time and space. Our universe has no limitations or boundaries. In this expanse, you are so small that you actually are nothing and yet you are so great. In this world, you just need to take care of yourself, knowing you always have choices. In this world, there is a never-ending joy and happiness – the adventure of life itself!
If you choose the first world, you choose your problems. Should you choose the second world, you’ll enjoy the free world mindfully.
2. The mindful life
Mindfulness means to live every moment, to live as fully as you possibly can.
When you live mindlessly, you worry about the future and that may lead to anxiety disorders. To dwell in the past, leads to depression. To feel overwhelmed by the future or the past, is taking us away from a life in the present, in the now and so the “now” that is our life passes us by. Research shows that mindfulness, in addition to anxiety and depression, is also successful in the treatment of psoriasis, fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
To live mindfully is indeed liberating. When you live mindfully you are less critical. Mindfulness frees you from judgement. You are less critical of others, but especially less critical of yourself. It allows you to experience things without assessing or analysing. When you analyse yourself, it leads to “analysis paralysis”. It gets you nowhere.
With mindfulness, you simply enjoy what you are experiencing in the here-and-now.
People who live mindfully:
- are likely to experience less anxiety and worry. They have a greater understanding and acceptance of their emotions and recover more quickly from a bad mood. They also have less negative thoughts and can easily extinguish these negative thoughts when they appear;
- are more in control and have a greater ability to overcome their inner negative thoughts and feelings, or to change them so that they do not respond to their immediate impulses;
- have a better and more stable self-esteem and are less dependent on external factors to make them feel better.
Mindfulness is just a ‘being in the world’. Just to be present and to be aware of ourselves and of the world around us. It’s an awareness that allows you to just experience with awareness and observe without criticism, judgment, assessment or analysis. It’s about compassion with yourself and your world around you. Mindfulness is to simply observe problems and crises. To watch with a friendly curiosity how they just pass you like dark clouds, without getting stuck in them. You understand that things that happen can only be as hard, bad, wrong etc. when you choose to think about it like this. You do not ask questions about whether it is right or wrong, or whether it is good or bad. You simply become aware of your experience of it. You only become aware of what is happening in and around you.
Mindfulness is a very quiet experience. There are no necessarily ecstatic feelings or feelings of bliss and excitement. It is rather a calm and quiet feeling without any anxiety. For me it is like silently stroking a cat and to experience the cat’s tranquillity. The purring of the cat and the quiet serenity that it brings about.
With mindfulness, there is no particular focus involved. It is more of an awareness of what is currently taking place, without having to try anything. It’s when you have no ambition, not experiencing a desire, nor a quest, being without a goal. It’s like you just become aware of what is currently happening, allowing it to happen, without interpreting it or doing something about it. Mindfulness is about observing with your five senses, rather than a response, monitoring or analysis of what you have experienced. This is a form of meditation.
You are simply fully aware of the ‘here and now’. To simply become aware of what your thoughts and feelings are. To rather let them go that to try dealing or managing them. You do not let them overwhelm you. It’s as if you are just standing back, watching these feelings pass you by.
The opposite of this is mindlessness. The sense of mindlessness is a sense of being on autopilot, being disconnected from yourself, an obsession with the past and a fear of the future. Just trying to cope.
You can just quietly become aware of your negative feelings and identify them. Rather than to analyse them or try and suppress them, you can merely become aware of them, accept them and not try to get rid thereof. Nor try to fight them. The harder we try to suppress our feelings, the more these feelings will persist.
When we simply accept these feelings and thoughts, they will automatically go away. This is when we can truly live with the full awareness of life. We can live calmly and in the ‘here and now’.
This is also true when we try enforcing positive feelings upon ourselves. It will have the opposite effect. We can simple allow these feelings to come at their own time. This is when they “accidentally” come into being.
3. The core components of mindfulness:
3.1 You are created equipped with everything required to be successful
The focus, therefore, should not be on what is wrong with man, but rather on what is right with people. It also happens when there are questions to be asked about what the positive intention behind behaviour was rather than to condemn the behaviour itself. It may ask us not to be judgmental, but rather question people’s intentions.
That’s when we realised that we are actually all still princes – all created perfect in our own unique way.
You can therefore accept your emotions and become aware of the message they are sending you, without analysing them, without putting yourself in a box. When we understand this, we can make our world a better place.
3.2 Break away from your thoughts
Our thoughts influence our feelings. The more attention we pay to our thoughts, the more we realise that they are not facts, but interpretations. Depression, for example, can only occur when we allow ourselves to constantly judge ourselves. Anxiety, on the other hand, comes from irrational thoughts about the future and such thoughts always start with “what if?”
3.3 It’s a to be rather than to do
To do is goal-driven, is focused on one goal, for example: to feel better. It is judgmental – feelings are judged as positive or negative. The to do mode constantly focuses on the elimination of negative emotions (of the past), or the fear of the future. To become in sync with oneself without constantly categorising these feelings as negative or bad.
This is where the shock element comes into play with regards to mindfulness in the western society.
Our culture implies that:
- the more you work, the more successful you will be;
- the more you put in, the greater the outcome;
- the more you co-operate, the better.
The more you “do” the more you are trying to avoid your current problem, instead of focusing on what you want.
Mindfulness is about just being aware of where you are at this moment. With full depth, richness and a broader experience, as discussed below.
3.4 Focus on your intuition
Intuition is nothing more than becoming aware of and focusing on your five senses. It is also an awareness of your own gut-feeling, free from thoughts. You can trust your gut-feel, your intuition. It has never let you down. How many times in your life have you simply felt like doing something, just to realise that it is exactly the right thing to do?
We have become too absorbed by the things happening around us, the bad news and all the negativity that we forgot about our own mindfulness.
3.5 Listen to your body
Mindfulness means to get back in touch with your body. To listen to what your body tells you. When your body tells you that something feels wrong or right, you may take it to heart. This happens when you eliminate the distortions of your thoughts. You just get a gut-feeling that something is either right or wrong.
If you feel uncomfortable about something, your feelings may warn you that something is not right. You should trust these feelings. It’s this thing in your stomach that has always told you that something is right or wrong. It’s this feeling that kept you alive.
4. The process of mindfulness
To breathe is to live. After God created man, he was just a lifeless body. It is only after God breathed His own breath into man, that he began to live. Breathing is “to be” and is probably the most important aspect of the fullness of life. We breathe God’s breath and God’s breath is what makes us part of Him. It is our soul. This is what makes us part of God. In Latin, spirit and soul, is one and the same word.
Our breathing changes in accordance to our state of mind. In times of anger or stress, it will shorten, fasten or/and become shallow. It is determined by our moods. In times of happiness it will become slower and deeper. We can even stop breathing when we are afraid. When breathing slowly and deeply, you will gain control of your thoughts and feelings. In short, your breathing is the one thing that you always have absolute control of.
Your breathing can help you slow down everything. To bring you into the moment of now, thus you will have complete awareness of your thoughts, feelings and actions. Breathing is placing you in the ‘here and now’.
Imagine yourself watching the ocean. Waves rolling in and out. With every breath that you take, it is like the wave retracting and every breath you exhale, the wave is breaking on the shore. Whilst exhaling you might wonder how the next wave will break. Wondering how far the wave will withdraw with the next breath you take.
Our lives are a constant chase, trying to fit as much as we can into every day. We multi-task and never take a moment to take a deep breath. Shallow breathing locks your body in a state of panic – associated with fast, shallow breathing, accelerated heartbeat, cold or clammy hands and neck spasms. Panic is the direct result of chronic anger, anxiety and feelings of guilt. It results in the so-called fight or –flight response (the reaction to survive in danger of or danger interpreted by our minds as such). This vicious cycle must be broken.
We become so anxious about our survival and false sense of security that we hyperventilate as an immediate response to stress. The thought of not being good enough, that makes you become out of touch with the world. You are overpowered by imaginary threats and enemies, stress factors and external problems, whilst hyperventilating just to reach your targets.
Only when breathing slowly and deeply, will you become in touch with yourself. Happy people take slow, deep breaths. Observe a happy baby or pet. They breathe slowly and deeply.
When breathing deeply, you’ll notice the following:
- your focus will become relaxed;
- your visualisation and creativity improves;
- you’ll master lateral thinking;
- you’ll experience insightful problem-solving;
- a whole-brain function;
- you will accomplish peak performance, as well as transformative and transcen-dental experiences;
- deep breathing can help with pain, anger, relationships and daily stress.
Your breathing takes you from the core of your physical well-being to the integration of your mental and spiritual abilities. That’s when you will experience God’s breath and have a balanced life as it was intended when He gave you breath.
The endorphins released by deep breathing are considered to be a painkiller – even more effective than morphine. What more powerful way to conquer the emotional pain towards the first world? It has the ability to not only relieve physical pain, but also emotional and even spiritual pain.
Relaxation is the antidote to stress and the feeling of not being good enough. Relaxation starts with deep breathing. When you are relaxed, your body starts regaining the energy lost as a result of tension. You already know: the more you force yourself to do or resist doing something, the more the opposite will happen. As Jung states: “Whatever you resist, persists”. I think we have all experienced this in our lives. The more we try to battle it, the more it devours us and stands in our way of accomplishment and contentedness. Instead of using words such as “must”, “should” and “ought”; or “must not”, “should not” or “ought not”, you can use the words: “I choose”. You always have choices. Knowing this, you can simply let your body relax more and more with each deep breath you exhale.
You can relax at any time, even if you are doing a particular task. Research shows that relaxation is the most powerful way to deal with stress.
Relaxation helps to clear you mind, increases your energy levels and improves your moods. Initially the benefits are subtle, but it evolves as you become more relaxed. This is where your intuition takes over and shows you all the joy given to simply live a decadent life. This is where you obtain deeper insights.
4.3 The slow life
“Life moves pretty fast. If you do not stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it “- Ferris Bueller.
Sometimes we are so materialistically inclined that we forget ourselves completely. We lose touch.
Find the time to have “no time”. It is yours. Do nothing. Just become quiet within yourself. Get in touch with yourself, even for only ten minutes a day.
- Do one thing at a time. Do one thing at a time, but do it mindfully. There is a Zen proverb that says: “When you walk, walk. When you eat, eat.” Do one thing at a time. Get it done. Do it well. Focus on it without the buzz word of multitasking.
- Do less. We want to get too much done. The more we try to accomplish the less we do. This will help you to do things more comprehensively and with more mindfulness.
- Take your time. Whilst doing something, take your time. It will also help you with your focus.
- When you eat, eat slowly. Eat mindfully and with full awareness of your food and yourself.
- You can go to your garden. Become mindful. Observe every flower, every leaf and every twig in every detail. Almost like a child seeing a flower for the first time.
- Sit on your porch and just observe your sprinkler in your garden. With your five senses become aware of how the water splashes in all directions. You can hear the spraying of the water, smell the scent of cut grass, even feel the freshness of the water on your skin. You can even taste it with your tongue and touch it with your fingers.
- When you use your five senses to the maximum, even your route to work may become new and fresh.
- You can even brush your teeth, shower or clip your nails, mindfully!
- Take a moment and take a pot of honey. Take a spoonful and let it flow back into the pot. Use your five senses to be aware of this. Clear your mind – think of absolutely nothing except the honey dripping slowly from the spoon. You breathe and relax, waiting for the final drop. Finally become aware of your thoughts, without analysing it.
- Peel a lemon. Become aware of the colour, so bright yellow, the sound of it being peeled, the taste and sensation when it touches your skin or tongue. Try to peel it in one piece. Should it break, start with a new lemon. Have you perhaps become aware of more saliva in your mouth, simply by thinking of a lemon?
4.4 Here and now
Mindfulness emphasises the experience, not the goal. The experience is important. The journey itself is more the destination than the destination itself.
The only time that exists is ‘now’. The past exists only in your brain as a memory and the future exists only as a fantasy, or a fear.
Mindlessness means we no longer live in the now. We live in the past and let moments pass us by.
Life itself only consists of moments. It exists from this moment to the next. Free from the constraints of time and space.
When we lose the “moment” of the now, is when we become mindless and this is where psychological problems arise.
When you are in the now and become aware of an emotion and what it is trying to tell you, you are mindful. Here we simply respond on what we are becoming aware of in the moment, rather than to think of our reaction to it.
Feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, anger and depression only trap you in the past. It is about what went wrong, or what you have done wrong.
Fear and anxiety relate to the future and about things that might possibly happen. When you live in the future you lose the moment by preparing yourself for what possibly could happen. These might hardly ever happen.
With mindfulness, you respond in the present to those events of the past or fears of the future. Those events of the past or the future are experienced differently by your present awareness.
Gratitude is something that we experience now, it is a positive response to what happened in the past. If we can be still, breathe and relax, we can focus on what we can learn from the ‘here and now’.
Positive responses of what may happen in the future, is experienced in the following ways: Hope, optimism and excitement.
4.5 Accept your emotions and feelings
To avoid getting trapped in the past or future, it might help to simply accept your emotions without analysing or trying to get rid of them.
Take a deep breath and relax. Instead of suppressing these negative emotions, you can just become aware of these emotions and thoughts and simply accept them. When trying to suppress them, they will only become more powerful. By accepting them they will simply begin to disappear. On the other hand: when trying to enforce positive feelings upon ourselves, these feelings will elude us.
Acknowledge how you feel without analysing, evaluating, appraising or assessing them.
4.6 Sensory Awareness
You were created with five senses. Sensory awareness is about how you use all five your senses to be ultimately aware of yourself and everything around you.
The more you focus on your five senses, the more information you will acquire. By using your five senses you can refine your reaction to the world around you as well as the world within you.
You will become more aware of everything around you, as well as the details of the wonderful things in the world you live in. You will become acutely aware of the pleasure you can derive from it. When walking, or driving to work, you can once again become aware of the wondrous world you live in. When was the last time you stopped at Lovers Lane to look at the mountain? At Blaauwberg Strand to hear and smell the ocean? Walked barefoot on the beach, feeling the sand between your toes. It might even feel like you’re tasting the air? Or watched the beautiful sunset in the Bushveld.
It requires you to come to a complete halt, be completely still and forget the first world. Ask yourself: “What is really important?”
4.7 Beginner Brain
Beginner Brain is when you experience everything fresh and anew, using all five senses like a new born baby would. That’s when you see yourself and the world, as it was before you developed cognitions and rational thoughts of analysis, evaluation, judgment, etc. Observe a child, particularly a baby. You will see a carefree baby staring at everything as if it’s fresh and new. A baby can sit for hours staring at his or her hands, without judging or criticising. Infants or toddlers have this awareness and complete confidence because they have not learned to think negatively or critically.
This is when we are reborn and see everything fresh and without criticism. To see every sunrise or sunset as if it was for the very first time. It is as if all the colours, the wonder and the beauty is seen for the very first time. That’s where every bird, every tree, everything in your everyday life is as if it is seen for the first time. Like listening to your favourite music as if you’ve never heard it before. When you listen to it mindfully, you will always discover something new. It’s like feeling the water running from your shower over your skin for the first time. It’s when you eat your food and smell the aromas as if it is a completely new experience. This is when you start to enjoy and experience your world mindfully. This is when you experience everything in your everyday life fresh and new!
Beginner Brain asks you to set aside all of your beliefs, all the impressions of the past, all your judgements and conclusions that you have made to date. To be an observer, only an observer, as a young child would be.
When living in the here-and-now with new interests and curiosity, is when you start to create new neural pathways. It changes your experience of life altogether.
5. Finally – experiencing the mindful and mindless life
Do the following exercise:
Become mindfully aware of where you are right now. Right here in the first world. Also, become aware of your everyday world, chasing after shadows.
Now, for a moment, imagine yourself in the second world of mindfulness and consciousness.
Do this exercise whilst standing on your feet, with an open space of about a meter in front of you.
- Get yourself in a comfortable position. Stand comfortably on both feet, evenly balanced.
- Imagine yourself standing in this first world of mindlessness and chasing after shadows.
- Become aware of how it feels.
- Imagine a world of mindfulness and consciousness more or less a meter in front of you.
- Use your sensory awareness. Become aware of the colours, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and intuition you would have when you are in this world. Are there any objects in this world?
- Get the idea of how you would feel when you are in this world. What do you want to feel? Would you want to feel confident? Or maybe relaxed?
- Place that feeling within that world, whatever feels right for you.
- Now take a step forward. Step into your world. Allow yourself now to feel and experience those feelings that you want to feel.
- Take one step back, out of this world, back to your world where you are right now and become aware of how different it makes you feel.
- Look at your second world. Are there any adjustments you would like to make to your experience in this world?
- Step back into your new world and make it even better in your head, more intense and become aware of the change in your feelings.
- What is different now?
She let go
Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,
without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a
book on how to let go … She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyse whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
~ Rev Safire Rose ~
via Devi Moksha – www.awakeningwomen.com