The following technique for mindfulness has been a powerful addition to my practice. It shows us not just that paying attention is important, but HOW to pay attention. You might have heard people saying to you in various ways that mindfulness and paying attention are the keys to happiness. While I don’t know if they are the only keys, they are certainly on the keychain of enlightenment and reducing our daily suffering. Here’s the technique briefly outlined below:
Much of our lives is spent in fighting what is going on in our lives. We fight for our paychecks, for our time, for attention. What we resist, persists. A profound change happens we say to ourselves – “I allow this situation/person/condition in my life right now.” Even if it is something we don’t want, the act of allowing ourselves to be in the situation we are in or with the person we are with, etc, opens up space in the mind to observe and truly see what is happening right now. When we move too fast, deny the truth or cover it up with lies or bullshit, we are robbing ourselves of the grace of the moment. Even if that grace is painful or ecstaticly joyful – if we don’t allow NOW to be as it is, then we miss what that moment is all about. Try this exercise to practice allowing: Arrange yourself in a yoga pose you can hold for 3-5 minutes. Commit to allowing yourself to be there for that time period. Set a timer if you want. Then practice saying to yourself – “I allow myself to be here, in this pose, right now.”
Once you have started allowing, even in the exercise above, then its time to watch. Observe. See. Pay attention to the little details of the moment. What happens when you allow yourself to be somewhere? What do you notice? I find myself seeing things that I didn’t observe before – the texture of my mat. The colors of the walls or nature around me. The sunshine shining through a spider web. Little, beautiful, inspiring things that somehow act as “happy pills” for me – its as if the mind craves to notice things in this way. When I allow myself to slow down and watch, it’s a little party in my heart and my mind, as if there is an internal barometer this activity that points to sunny internal weather!
There then comes a time when you have been allowing and watching, that the appropriate action or non-action will appear in your awareness. Sometimes its appropriate to stay in a pose, and other times it is not. When you have been allowing and watching, there is no question about what the appropriate action is for you in that moment. That solid knowing of what is best for you in that moment can foster self-confidence, self-knowledge and facilitate healthy boundaries.
Keep at It
One of the most rewarding yet challenging things to do is to create consistency. When we are allowing, watching and taking appropriate action, the next challenge is to keep going. Sometimes we need to pick up the thread again after we’ve dropped it, and sometimes we can surf waves up and down and stay on track. Whatever happens, it’s great to allow yourself to watch and act how you need to in order to keep at your practice. It’s the consistent thread that is so sustaining and nourishing as you do the tough work of pursuing your goals.
Expect the Best
Ever heard your attitude makes a difference? This is part of expecting the best out of something, but it also encompasses a sense of faith. Faith is tricky – it’s been co-opted by lots of people in order to gain power over them. This is not the faith I am talking about – its the quiet, persistent belief that the best will come out of any situation. It’s like the background of a watercolor painting – if you put too much paint on the background, the foreground will muddle in color and texture and you won’t be able to get some of the effects that you want so that the painting turns out well. We can be mindful and attentive of the “color” we cast on to any particular day or situation and how that affects the outcome of what we are doing. Practice does this so well – when we come to the mat, we choose the mental landscape with which to experience our lives. And that makes a profound difference!
Now is the time to do this! Now is all we have! Yesterday doesn’t exist any more except in our minds. The future is a fantasy, unpredictable and unreliable. All we really have is right now to do what we need or want and to achieve our goals. What can you do in this moment, right now, to move a step closer to your goals? To the truth?
The breath is one of the most awesome tools we have in yoga. It only exists in the now. It has no past or no future. It either is or isn’t – and so are we in connection with it. Take a moment today to allow, watch, act, keep at it and expect the best from your breath. You may be amazed at what you find out.