As you look out upon the world, drifting to and from thought to thought, you are sleeping. Your life is a dream that you watch, sometimes with your eyes open and sometimes with your eyes closed. You yourself are a dream. You are not yet awake.
Somewhere deep within you, though, there is a silence. In this silence is awareness. The awareness is awake. The awareness is alive. This silence cannot be imposed from the outside. It grows from deep within you like a plant, and it has always been there. Within this silence is the full truth of who you are.
As your thoughts chatter like the morning birds, they clutter and obscure this essential Being-ness that is your true self. This true self is simply awareness. It watches. It is a silent and all-seeing witness to your life. It does not judge nor interfere— it only observes. To rouse yourself to consciousness, therefore, you too must watch. You must become mindful, and in so doing, you create space for yourself.
Most of us eat without tasting, listen without hearing, and speak without noticing what we are saying. No matter where we might be, at our fingertips there is a whole universe of complexity to wonder at, yet we fail to even notice it is there.
If you begin to pay attention, every bite of food has a wealth of flavor. Every environment is abundant with beautiful colors and textures. Every moment is full of details to observe, acknowledge and appreciate. Every moment is infinitely complex if you stop and witness all the elements that are involved. A sea of stars hovers just behind the veil of sky at all times, unnoticed, and yet all you have to do is look up to see.
As you move through your physical environment, practice becoming aware. As you bend to pick up an object, notice the sensations in your body. As you walk outside, notice the wind on your cheek. As you perform simple tasks like doing the dishes, practice becoming totally present with every sensation involved.
As you become more and more aware, your hastiness ceases. You will stop needlessly rushing, and you will bring awareness into the parts of your mind that have atrophied and grown numb. As you become more watchful, the light of clarity will begin waxing in you. All of the energy that has been wasted upon chattering thoughts and impulsive cravings will be directed instead into sharpening your alert, hawk-like attention. As you become more aware of your body and its movements, unnecessary and counterproductive activities will fall away. Your body will become more relaxed, your senses will become more keenly sensitive and you will remain more deeply balanced within the vicissitudes of life. You will stop fidgeting, pacing about in circles and squandering your energy in ways that waste your potential.
Soon enough, your mind will be simply a pool of pure consciousness. This pure consciousness existed before you were born, and merely entered your body to use as a vehicle for experience. This pure consciousness is like a pair of eyes with a constant gaze looming at the depths of your being. One day your physical body will die, but this pure consciousness lives on forever as part of a cosmic whole. Even then it will be watching, awake, aware.
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The next phase of mindfulness is to become aware of the movements of the mind. You may be surprised when you begin to observe the constant flitting about of your thoughts. You may be amazed to discover how often your attention wanders, and even more surprised at what your attention settles upon.
As an experiment, take fifteen minutes to yourself alone, and write down exactly what is going through your mind at that moment. Do not consciously pick a topic, or interpret, edit or change what it is. Simply write down the truth of what is going on within the walls of your mind— even if you have to rip it up and throw it in a fire later!
After ten minutes, read what you have written. This will give you great insight into the content of the streams that run like an undercurrent in your daily life. How often are you at work or driving or spending time with your family with your mind somewhere altogether different?
You may think your wandering attention has no effect upon what your body is doing, but it has a very great and dire effect. These unconscious happenings impact not only the results of the work that you do— they affect your entire perception and experience of life itself. The physical world is not as real as you think. Only the consciousness of your mind is real. Therefore, if you are not in the present moment, you are like one who is sleep-walking or intoxicated. You are not really seeing—you are only stumbling by and reacting in a random and haphazard manner.
When you catch yourself drifting into “auto-pilot”, simply acknowledge what has happened and return to the present. Do not judge yourself when this happens, but instead affirm the benefit of the awareness of your thought patterns as they really are. Becoming conscious of the truth as it is in this current moment means that you are on the path to becoming more awakened. All of your power lies in your ability to be fully mindful. Once you become awake, reality becomes ever more real, and you yourself become more real within it.
Most of us spend our whole lives living in the present and the future while completely abandoning the present. We spend our days planning, plotting and worrying things to come, and fall asleep at night stewing over what is already over and done with. Both the past and the future are only figments of our imagination that do not really exist.
The past is only kept alive by attention to it. If you withdrew your attention from things which angered or upset you, they would cease to be real. So many of us dwell upon our grievances, living and re-living the injustice anew every day, yet only our attention and fixation is real, while the event is not.
The future operates according to its own plan and cannot be accurately predicted or altered. You may spend weeks, months or years living in a future that you are anticipating, only to have something completely different happen instead. What, then, did you do for all that time? The majesty of the present was sitting there for you and you let it pass by, living instead in a world that never was.
Each time you catch yourself living in the past or the future, do not judge yourself. Simply return to the present. Your attention will wander again and again and again, because you have lived your whole life training your mind to operate in this way. The more you continually practice redirecting your attention back to the present over and over, the stronger the muscle of your mind will become. Your mind will become used to living in the present.