We became aware of the concept of mindfulness when our lives started moving too fast for us to make sense of it. One moment you are dating and living in a little apartment, the next you have a home larger than you ever imagined, a child in pre-school with activities every afternoon, keeping up with the Van der Merwe’s and just charging through life. It’s when someone else stands in your garden and admires the beautiful green haven, you realise, I don’t even notice it anymore, I don’t appreciate this enough. Then all the other questions follow, the ones bringing you to a stand-still and forcing you to ask what are we doing?
It took us two years to plan our exodus, our liberation and freedom from all of this stuff, the racing about, towards more and more stuff.
In the process, I started reading up on mindfulness, because I heard it somewhere or stumbled upon it on social media, but it struck a chord. This is what it basically is:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Mindful.org
That in itself is so much to grasp. It translates to not being too caught up in the noise, in the hustle, but to understand that you are here, in THIS moment, in mind and body.
Reach Out explains it as:
“Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way.
When a person is mindful, they:
- Focus on the present moment
- Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
- Purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them
- Try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
To me, this is core, non-judgemental. What does it mean? Try to imagine not judging a person, or an experience or a product. As James Davis puts is:
Mindfulness is really the beginning, the first steps of soul consciousness. In order to see ourselves and others in a non-judgmental way, we must see ourselves (body, mind, emotion, world) from ABOVE. So mindfulness is taking control by going off-automatic-pilot, and it is the soul that does this.
Are you convinced yet? Me neither, it is still very abstract, an idea. How do we implement this? How do we live this? To clarify it for me I had to go back to an old time favourite source, which helped me all through my ‘wonder’ years (I wonder why this, I wonder how this) – How to for Dummies!
According to dummies you should try and understand the three aspects of Mindfulness:
Mindfulness has three different aspects that operate together seamlessly to bring about a state of mindful awareness. Print out and pin up this list to remind yourself of what these are.
- Intention – Your intention is what you hope to get from practising mindfulness. You may want stress reduction, greater emotional balance or to discover your true nature. The strength of your intention helps to motivate you to practise mindfulness on a daily basis and shapes the quality of your mindful awareness.
- Attention – Mindfulness is about paying attention to your inner or outer experience. Your mindful attention is mainly developed through various different types of meditation – either formal, traditional or informal – when talking, cleaning or driving, for example.
- Attitude – Mindfulness involves paying attention to certain attitudes, such as curiosity, acceptance and kindness.
Okay, so now I understand the concept, but how do I utilise this knowledge. Because when you are dealing with a real issue, can you go back and think about the three aspects and magically feel better?
Dummies helped me again! With the RAIN formula:
R – Recognise the emotion you’re feeling. Name the emotion in your mind if you can.
A – Accept the experience you’re having. Yes, you probably don’t like the feeling, but the reality is the emotion is here at the moment.
I – Investigate. Become curious about your experience. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? What kind of thoughts are going through your mind?
N – Non-identification. See the emotion as a passing event rather than who you actually are, just as different images are reflected in a mirror but are not the mirror. Different emotions arise and pass in you, but are not you, yourself. The most powerful step is non-identification. Have the attitude ‘anger is arising and will soon pass away’ or ‘sadness is coming up in me, and at some point will dissolve’.
Sometimes you just need to do one step, whereas at other times you may want to work through the whole formula. Practise using the formula whenever you can, so when things become challenging for you, you’ll find it easier to use.
We are still a long way from perfecting this practice, but we do it daily, at one moment or another, just reminding ourselves to recognise the beauty of our surroundings while rushing to be on time for a school activity, or accept that we have a challenge living through a drought but understand that our attitude will determine our outlook and possibility to find solutions for it.