Mindfulness is flexible, moment-to-moment, non-judging awareness. It can be as simple as awareness of basic daily activities – “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in; breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” Mindfulness is also cultivated through practice of meditation, in order to experience calm, joy, concentration and eventually insight. We really only have this moment – unfolding in the here and now, again and again – but so often we miss it, lost in thoughts of the past or future. Thus, we miss our lives. To awaken in the present moment means we can come home to ourselves by using the breath as a bridge to unite our body and our mind.
The practice of Mindfulness Meditation reawakens our capacity to live more fully in our experience, recognizing each thought, each thing, for what it is – and recognizing it with tenderness. As Jon Kabt-Zin notes, “Imagine how it might feel to suspend all your judging and instead to let each moment be just as it is, without attempting to evaluate it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This would be a true liberation. Meditation means cultivating a non-judging attitude toward what comes up in the mind, come what may.”
Mindfulness provides the ability to be at greater ease with life’s ups and downs. We learn to accept one of life’s truths – that we don’t have much control over what happens and that nothing is permanent. As we learn to be present with what is happening in our body, speech and mind, we develop more balance and equanimity, and we connect with our essential goodness. This doesn’t mean an absence of noise, trouble or hard work. It means having the ability to remain calm in the midst of it all, and having the tools to transform difficulties into a path of healing. “We can’t stop the waves, but we can learn how to surf” (Jon Kabat-Zinn) – and learn to relate to life with a greater sense of understanding and compassion both for ourselves and others.
We all have the capacity to wake up; it is a matter of letting go rather than attainment. We’re trainable. Today, research scientists are studying the beneficial effects of meditation on the brain, which is the #1 organ in the body built to change – it responds to training. Like most things, transformation takes practice. We practice for ourselves and for others; the most precious thing we can offer others is our complete presence. We’re always just a breathe away from experiencing peace and happiness, the only place where it dwells – in the present moment.