Guided Mindfulness Practice
Listen to Andy Metcalf’s Guide to Mindfulness Practice
Nick Carroll’s Reflections for July
Life in Awareness
We are often taught to bring mindfulness into our daily life. In fact, it would be better to state it the other way around. We should see if we can bring our whole life into mindfulness.
Actually, daily life is already in our awareness as we go about our business, doing one thing after another as we work through our ‘to do’ list, or being bored and not knowing what to do with ourselves. If we weren’t mindful of what we were doing most of the time we would have endless accidents and mishaps, for to live our life safely we have to notice what we are doing.
But we are so preoccupied with what we are experiencing that most of the time we don’t notice that we are actually aware. We take it for granted and do not realise its significance.
Noticing is another word for being mindful and we can also use the word awareness But whatever word we use we can all agree that we have been noticing from the moment we had the capacity to do so, even from before we were born and in the safety of our mother’s womb.
Whether we are an infant, a child, adolescent or an adult, whenever we notice pain we instinctively tense up, and if the pain is considerable, perhaps cry out. When we experience a pleasant sensation, again irrespective of age, we might smile inwardly or outwardly and perhaps even laugh.
In our practice we can expand our field of awareness so that it includes more including what we often don’t want to know and by straightening out the perceptual distortions by which we make things and experiences more acceptable. Our likes and dislikes of how things are are the real obstacles that prevent us from knowing how it really is.
We can go further with our enquiry. Our body, our sensations, our emotions, our perceptions and our thoughts, are all experienced in awareness. This we can know and agree with, but we can go deeper. We call them ‘ours’. But are they in fact ‘ours’ to own?
To say they are ‘ours’ is more a turn of phrase rather than a fact. It identifies a body with all its attributes to the consciousness in which all these attributes arise. What we can recognise is how strongly we all identify with what we experience; so much so that we believe and declare that this is ‘my’ body, ‘my’ feeling, ‘my’ thought. When examined further we can see that this a questionable belief.
We cannot even say that mindfulness or awareness belongs to anybody. We don’t possess it; but everything that we experience, without exception, is experienced in it. This is true for all sentient beings.
We can ask if mindfulness or awareness is even an ‘it’? What attributes does ‘it’ have? It is only present in the moment, a unit of time that can’t be measured. It is always present whilst we are alive. Like space it is boundless and includes everything that arises within it. It is not affected by anything and yet it contains all sensations, feelings, perceptions and thoughts. It includes everything we consider personal and yet ‘it’ itself is quite impersonal. And, by containing everything it is unitive.
In all the above sentences having to use the word ‘it’ to identify it, makes it into an object. But awareness or mindfulness doesn’t fall into any categories that could make it into an object. It can be inferred, it can be experienced and known directly, but it is not possible to quantify it as an object. It can exist as an idea or a concept, but an idea or a concept is never the thing itself. An idea can only be a representation and is therefore one removed from the ‘thing’ itself. Here we can see the limitation of words and ideas.
We can investigate and reflect on these questions, not just intellectually, but experientially. Rather than being an armchair philosopher we can be a scientist in the ‘laboratory’ of our life observing the flow of our transient experiences. We can be observers of our own subjectivity.
Our inquiry practice begins to reveal the impermanent nature of all that we experience, as well as the constancy of awareness in which we experience life. As we begin to see how things really are, our present moment mindfulness increasingly becomes a transformative practice that reveals our likes and dislikes, or resistances and preferences, all that which prevent us from accepting the true nature of reality.
When we know and learn to accept that what we consider to be ‘ourselves’ is also a temporary coming together of ever-changing impermanent elements and attributes, we begin to release ourselves into the freedom of selflessness and greater harmony with existence as a whole. Acceptance of how things really are, a process of ever-changing phenomena experienced in timeless awareness, is a state of true well-being.