The mind is simply a neutral tool operating in a vast reality where all kinds of experiences, sublime and miserable, are possible in every moment. Unchecked negativity blinds us to the joy of our true nature and to the Spirit infused world. As we disengage the auto-thought pilot, as we get out of our heads, out of a doing mode into more of a being mode, and learn to experience the world directly, experientially, we open our spirit up to the limitless possibilities for the happiness and insight that present-moment life offers. We come to trust our alert, “still mind” more than our thinking minds. In fact, we may come to seek refuge in our “still mind” as often as we can, finding that we don’t need most of our thoughts. We find that our stressful mental chatter quiets down and something wonderful begins to expand. We find “peace in the still mind.”
Clinicians find that people who suffer from depression, stress and other emotional troubles are helped by slowing down and cultivating a compassionate awareness, a paying attention on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to things as they arise within oneself and without.
One of these clinicians Jon Kabut-Zinn, holds classes on mindful-based stress reduction at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He describes a roomful of people at the hospital lying motionless on the floor-for anywhere from ten to forty-five minutes. He says that they are practicing non-doing while they actively make an effort to remain aware from one moment to the next. It looks as though they are doing nothing, but it’s a “very rich and complex nothing.” They are practicing mindfulness.
Another way to say it is that they are practicing “being.” For once they are purposefully stopping all the doing in their lives and relaxing into the present without trying to fill it up with anything. They are purposefully allowing body and mind to come to rest in the moment, no matter what is “on” their mind or how their body feels. They are tuning into the basic experiences of living (breathing, bodily sensations, heightening cues from the 5 senses, etc.) They are simply allowing themselves to be in the moment with things exactly as they are, without trying to change anything . . .
The basic idea is to create an island of being in the sea of constant doing in which our lives are usually immersed, a time in which we allow all the “doing” to stop. If you start paying attention to where your mind is from moment to moment throughout the day, you will probably find that as much or more energy is expended in anticipating, planning worrying, and fantasizing about the future and what you want to happened or don’t want to happen.
The untrained mind deals randomly with negative thoughts and feelings. One of the main problems with letting our minds wander in this random way is that it generates anxiety and other negative kinds of thinking and feeling without realizing what we are doing.
Being mindful means having good control over your attention, you can place your attention wherever you want and it stays there without being distracted and then when you want to shift it to something else, you can. You are in charge. When your attention is steady so is your mind; not rattled or hijacked by whatever pops into awareness, but stable and present, grounded and constant. Attention is like a spotlight, and what it illuminates or focuses on grows or in other words streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Choose what you focus on instead of having the brain randomly choose it for you. As you do this you develop greater control over your attention. This is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind.
I encourage you to give yourself a gift, the gift of peace. Practice more faithfully your own personal mindfulness. Continue with either a more formal practice of meditation or checking in on your awareness more often throughout the day. When you find yourself getting stressed . . . remember to breathe and let it go. Identify what you can be grateful for in the moment, this can quickly redirect your attention and change your inner state of being. Redirect your focus on what really matters, let go of the made-up fears from the mind and move into faith and trust. Choose to make more moments sublime and meaningful this month. Practice your focus and attention on “peace in the still mind.”