You probably understand mindfulness as something achievable through meditation. Or perhaps you think mindfulness IS meditation. Is it so? To understand it better, the right question could be “What is mind-fullness”?
I once watched a video by Sadhguru where he talked about the perception of yoga. For the yogis, the power of yoga can be understood as a plane metaphorically where it can fly high with its wings. It’s powerful and capable of creating miracles. But most people don’t fully know the power of yoga, he said.
Because we practice yoga as if we’re taking the plane and chop the wings so that we can drive with it. As a vehicle, the plane can run well and it makes us happy. But we have no idea what we’re missing! As a yogi, he can look at it and cry because he knows the true power of yoga. But when he looks out to the world and sees how crazy it all is, he laughs instead!
This, my friends, illustrates well how I feel about mindfulness!
Mindfulness, as it’s practiced popularly nowadays, is reduced to tools, methods, and techniques where we can use mostly to reduce stress. It has become a “quick fix” to achieve a happier life. I even saw an advertisement in a newspaper once where they promised that you’d become a mindfulness instructor after two weeks of training!
Two weeks of training? Seriously? It made me sad, but at the same time, it was so funny that I laughed instead.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t believe it. Practicing mindfulness, even just for ten minutes a day, can do wonders for your well-being.
But is it all that mindfulness is, and can do?
In recent years, there has been a discussion whether mindfulness is a “good” concept. Even world-renown spiritual teacher like Eckhart Tolle said that he prefers not to use the word mindfulness because it can indicate that the mind is full.
I love the teachings of Eckhart, and since I know that his wisdom comes from Presence, the discussion of mindfulness at a conceptual level doesn’t matter that much. Still, I would like to explain why mindfulness does not mean that the mind is full, and understood as if it’s full of thoughts, feelings, and concepts etc.
So, what do most people misunderstand about mindfulness?
It’s a limited perception of what the mind is!
The mind- seeing in the light of mindfulness and the teaching of Buddhism- does NOT equal to our cognitive mind. It’s not only about our intelligence that includes the ability to think, rationalize, reflect, discern, and discriminate etc.
Words are limited. It’s impossible to explain comprehensively at a conceptual level what mindfulness really is.
But one thing is sure, if you understand that mindfulness indicates that the mind is full of thoughts, you have misunderstood it. To understand what the mind really is, let’s take a look at this quote: (taken from “The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing by Thich Nhat Hanh, p. 29):
“Mind cannot be separated from its object. Mind is consciousness, feeling, attachment, aversion, and so on. Consciousness must always be conscious of something. Feeling is always feeling something. Loving and hating are always loving and hating something. This “something” is the object of the mind. Mind cannot arise if there is no object. Mind does not exist if the object of mind does not exist. The mind is, at one and the same time, the subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness. All physiological phenomena, such as the breath, the nervous system, and the sense organs; all psychological phenomena, such as feelings, thought, and consciousness; and all physical phenomena, such as the earth, water, grass, trees, mountains, and rivers, are objects of mind; and therefore, all are mind. All of them can be called “dharmas”.
So what does it mean- to be mindful of something? It’s the ability to be FULLY PRESENT and CONSCIOUS of “something” at multisensory levels including that which is the awareness itself!
The depth of mindfulness is boundless. This is the reason why true Zen master will never claim that they are “experts” of mindfulness. It’s not a technique, even though it also includes techniques.
Mindfulness is a state of being, a way of living where wisdom is embodied in all aspects of life.
And it’s a lifetime practice, every moment in the present NOW.