(1) I recently read some things about mindfulness that made me doubt. “The space between an emotion and a reaction, an impulse and an action, a stimulus and response. That space allows us to do something very important — make a choice.“
(2) Somewhere in my not so reliable memory, I remembered mindfulness as watching the emotion, and to let it go. Like a train that races past you without leaving a trace 2 minutes later. This works for me. I feel the sadness when treated badly in traffic, and go into watching mode, seeing the constructs of mind. It has become a habit and those constructs often don’t even appear any more.
(3) I also remembered Pema Chodron in ‘when things fall apart‘ talking about being mindful. I looked up the passage without effort. I underlined it in 2009 with a clear mark in the margin next to it: “Not causing harm requires slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reaction and understand how they work, the easier it becomes to refrain.”
And also: “… Instructions on mindfulness or emptiness or working with energy all point to the same thing: being right on the spot nails us. It nails us right to the point of time and space that we are in. When we stop there and don’t act out, don’t repress, don’t blame it on anyone else, and also don’t blame it on ourselves, then we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer. We also encounter our heart.“
(4) Lama Drimed, an Englishman who made some time for me in 2004 to teach me meditation, put a lot of attention in being aware of my breath, counting it, being mindful of it.
(5) In ‘the miracle of mindfulness‘, Thich Nhat Hanh (I always have to check the spelling) in chapter 3 talks about dedicating 1 day per week to mindfulness: “… While still lying in bed, begin slowly to follow your breath-slow, long, and conscious breaths. Then slowly rise from bed (instead of turning out all at once as usual), nourishing mindfulness by every motion. Once up, brush your teeth, wash your face, and do all your morning activities in a calm and relaxing way, each movement done in mindfulness. Follow your breath, take hold of it, and don’t let your thoughts scatter. Each movement should be done calmly. Measure your steps with quiet, long breaths. Maintain a half smile. Spend at least a half hour taking a bath. Bathe slowly and mindfully, so that by the time you have finished, you feel light and refreshed.
Afterwards, you might do household work such as washing dishes, dusting and wiping off the tables, scrubbing the kitchen floor, arranging books on their shelves. Whatever the tasks, do them slowly and with ease, in mindfulness. Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. …“
This is all quite complicated to put into practice.
(5) goes out of the assumption of constantly being aware. Keeping your awareness all the time. This is possible. We create a habit of it. Whether it is practical, I do not know. It’s like being in ‘observing mode’ all the time. I can do that when being in a train and watching out the window. I’ve done it often. But I also have to admit to say that this train-observing never tackled my anger.
(1) seems very difficult too. The space between an emotion and my reaction to it is 0.3 seconds.
(2) I made the habit of seeing a stop sign in my mind while in traffic when feeling sad. Emotions always precede mental constructs. Anger is a mental construct when sadness changes into fear. A fear of losing something that is mine: “My priority, my lane, … my being on time” I realized long ago that I can not be mindful all the time, that my reaction time is much faster than the interrupt coming from the observer. A habit changes behaviour. We learn habits consciously, then they become part of our programming. I think that (1) wants to say the same thing without talking about reprogramming your habits. It is possible but I have no idea. (4) also wants to create a habit. Although it is most of the time just a tool to watch yourself, see what is going on in your brain.
(4) is the primer before you can do any of the other possibilities. You have to become aware of your mind, how emotions and thoughts and opinions all work together. How thoughts are automatic, coming from past experiences and not from ‘self’, whatever that would be, and how we identify all the time with our mentally constructed conceptual sense of self.
(5) is all the way all the time. As a teacher I’m reminded that one should not frighten the students the first 15% of the course. They should get familiar with the matter before anything that looks difficult (but often isn’t) should be tackled.
Perhaps being mindful also means
to see the sunset when you are sad,
and to see beautiful condensation lines from planes,
and flowers and clouds and smiles
and birds flying,
and music in an elevator
and funny situations
or rabbits or squirrels playing in the early morning
This too is mindfulness. We should not forget that mindfulness is not only about sadness, anger, fear and greed. Most of the time, and much easier to practice, it is about beautiful things that we have taken for granted, hence forget to even notice, but remain beautiful regardless.
Who/What is that thing that takes things for granted?
I think part of it is the habit taught by society at an early age
to repress our emotions, regardless of their nature.
There is also our comparing mind, that doesn’t see beauty as unusual anymore.
We should be mindful of these bad habits too,
and reprogram then into a permanent source of happiness in our lives.