“When the mind is full of memories and preoccupied by the future, it misses the freshness of the present moment. In this way, we fail to recognize the luminous simplicity of mind that is always present behind the veils of thought.” -Matthieu Ricard
I have a cousin who is a labeler. Everywhere we go together, everything we see or experience, she categorizes, compares to something else, judges as good or bad, wanted or unwanted and it's a constant outpouring of judgements and an incessant need for acknowledgment for all of the 'information' that she's managed to gather throughout her life. Unfortunately, most of it is negative. We could be sitting looking at the most beautiful sunset and she would find some experience that she had that was miserable involving a beautiful sunset.
We all know someone like this or perhaps you've caught yourself being this person. This can be an energy drain for those around this person and for the person themselves. Being a slave to this incessant mind chatter is how most of us live our lives and it's not until we are told, or we wake up to the fact that we can press the stop button on this loop of audio recording in our head that we can welcome in the healing practice of mindfulness meditation.
A key question is: what does it mean to be mindful? Mindfulness is a skill. It is something that we can practice and get better at. It can be cultivated. It is the awareness that we all possess. Not the thinking but the awareness of the thinking. It is also the awareness of our breath, our body, our sensory input through the 5 senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound, and our awareness of our environment. In order to be aware, we have to pay attention. Pay attention to what? To what's happening in the moment and being present and aware of what's happening around you and within you.
The beginning of this practice is learning to be in silence. Learning to let go of the commentary that our mind feeds us in all of our waking moments. Learning not to respond immediately to things or people around us and just be quiet.
Part of the process of mindfulness is letting go of judgement. By being wholly in the moment, there is a letting go of labeling what you're experiencing, judging it as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, desirable or not desirable, and just being present. The more carefully you pay attention to what's happening moment to moment, breath to breath, the less you slip into the thinking mind that is busy categorizing, labeling and judging all of our experiences and trying to put everything into it's proper folder.
Golf is a good example of mindfulness. When we play golf, we try to be silent, to focus on the ball, and to be completely present. This is a form of mindfulness and this is why so many people enjoy golf without understanding the real reason why. It forces you to be mindful. You feel rejuvenated when you've spent an afternoon in beautiful surroundings of nature taking in healthy prana or life force, being quiet, and concentrating your mind on one little white ball and the hole you want to put it in.
With mindfulness practice we become more open hearted, more accepting and more compassionate. When we step out of the rigid structures that we've created to deal with the world and all of it's suffering and complexity, and bring ourselves to the ever present “now” there is a softening, an unfolding. We can finally lay down the pain that we create 'around' our pain and start to see the wonder in life and even, eventually, in suffering...