“After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher.“Full awareness” from “Zen stories to tell your neighbours”
One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked
in, the master greeted him with a question, “Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?”
“Yes,” Tenno replied.
“Tell me,” the master continued, “did you place your umbrella to the left of
your shoes, or to the right?”
Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in’s apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.”
“Who are you ?”
At a level of concepts there are many answers like I am a ‘Soul’, ‘Spirit’..etc. But at a level of an experience, the closest answer I come to is that “I am an awareness, a consciousness” The body, mind and the senses are my mediums of experiencing the universe.
Mindfulness is a tool to begin taking hold of this consciousness. Mindfulness in simple words is being aware, of everything that you can be aware of in the present moment. Being more aware means that ‘YOU’ are expanding. That you are breaking your existing limits and becoming more than what you can currently perceive .
Here are some ideas about mindfulness, followed by some exercises. The exercises are largely inspired from the very famous book ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh. The ideas below are my own reflections from the same book.
1.) Mindfulness and creativity.
The present is the only reality that is unfolding in your life. Everything else, the thoughts of past and future are already there in your mind. Therefore you will only be repeating the patterns that are already in your mind unless you discover new ideas from the present moment.
If you are in a search for something new and creative, you have to feed your mind a new level of awareness, which comes from mindfulness exercises.
2.) Mindfulness and wisdom
Being more aware improves your understanding about life (because being aware is the experience of life itself) so that you know at each moment what is important. Humans have this tendency to perceive their problems a lot bigger than they are. It is a distorted perception which can be brought back to a reasonable scale by practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness won’t solve any practical problems of your life. But it will surely help you see their true place in your life. Here is a touching story that can be related to how we perceive our problems.
3.) Mindfulness and progress
Any kind of progress or a change in life happens only by becoming aware of our own actions and habits. Becoming aware is step 1. Unless you become aware of your existing habits, you will keep repeating them even if they are harmful and producing negative results. The habit of mindfulness can be very helpful in throwing a light at things which need to change in your life.
Therefore it is important to take a time for reflection everyday and throw your conscious attention on your actions of the day.
4.) Mindfulness is of no use as a concept.
If you have read this post till now, resolve to take some action on becoming aware. All the words and motivation is useless without action. Some people become satisfied by reading about mindfulness and understanding it intellectually. But You must understand that becoming aware is an experience. No amount of words can help you, if you don’t act. The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself.
The magic of mindfulness is in its experience. So here are some exercises for you, entirely taken from the book mentioned above. I am only putting some of them to give you a sense. If you find them useful, please have a look at the book.
- Deep Breathing– Breathing is the best tool you can use to bring your awareness back to the present moment. Breathe evenly and gently, focusing your attention on the movement of your stomach. As you begin to breathe in, allow your stomach to rise in order to bring air into the lower half of your lungs. As the upper halves of your lungs begin to fill with air, your chest begins to rise and your stomach begins to lower. Don’t tire yourself. Continue for 10 breaths. The exhalation will be longer than the inhalation.
- Half-smile when irritated – When you realize you’re irritated, half-smile at once. Inhale and exhale quietly, maintaining the half smile for three breaths.
- Your skeleton – Imagine all that is left of your body is a white skeleton lying on the face of the earth. Maintain the half smile and continue to follow your breath. Imagine that all your flesh has decomposed and is gone, that your skeleton is now lying in the earth 80 years after burial. See clearly the bones of your head, back, your ribs, your hip bones, leg and arm bones, finger bones. Maintain the half smile, breathe very lightly, your heart and mind serene. See that your skeleton is not you. Your bodily form is not you. Your skeleton is only one part of you. You are present everywhere and in every moment. You are not only a bodily form, or even feelings, thoughts, actions, and knowledge. Continue for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Mediation on interdependence – Be conscious of your body, feelings, perceptions, mind functionings, and consciousness in the present moment. See these five aggregates which make up yourself. And see how these five aggregates make up everything around you. Notice how you are one with everything around you, made with the same aggregates that the entire universe is made. Contemplate on this but avoid getting into intellectual answer. Contemplate through experience.
- Yourself – Sit in a dark room by yourself, or alone by a river at night, or anywhere else where there is solitude. Begin to take hold of your breath. Give rise to the thought, “I will use my finger to point at myself,” and then instead of pointing at your body, point away in the opposite direction. Contemplate seeing yourself outside of your bodily form. Contemplate seeing your bodily form present before you-in the trees, the grass and leaves, the river. Be mindful that you are in the universe and the universe is in you: if the universe is, you are; if you are, the universe is. There is no birth. There is no death. There is no coming. There is no going. Maintain the half smile. Take hold of your breath. Contemplate for 10 to 20 minutes.
Thank you for reading. Hope this post adds value to your life. Be aware, be mindful and raise your consciousness to the next level. 🙂
Thank you. 🙂 Beautiful sunset featured image captured by Niharika. Find more of her beautiful photography on instagram. @niharikajadav