Awakening with Mindfulness

by meditative - December 1st, 2014

… and you thought you were just practicing meditation to help reduce your stress and perhaps deepen your ability to relax? This is true, but mindfulness mediation is fundamentally about coming to know our own mind, body, and wholeness of ‘self’- in helping us to get in touch with our own inner strengths and resources- and in opening our sense of being to the ‘nature’ of who we are and who we are becoming.

One way to think of this familiarization process is ‘mindfulness’ as a lens taking the scattered and reactive energies of our mind and focusing them into a coherent source of energy for living… for problem solving… for healing… and for spiritual growth & maturity. All of life’s moments- all of life’s experiences can be seen more clearly through this contemplative lens with greater openness & compassion. Over time, we cultivate and refine the precision of our self-awareness that is driven by a deep yearning to know the nature of our being… our desires, impulses, habits, etc.

For many of us modern day dwellers, the moment is everywhere but the present. Without being fully in the present moment, we are often vulnerable to our highly conditioned impulses and reactionary tendencies… relatively enslaved by our own ‘habitualness’. Because of this inner busyness which is going on almost all the time, we are liable to miss a lot of the texture of our life experience, or to discount its value and its meaning.

Residing in a world that has so much conditioned automaticity, and at best, semi-conscious awareness, we are often disconnected from living fully and consciously in our own experiences- so busy and encumbered with what our discursive minds think to be important that we fail to take the time and stop to listen… to notice things… to experience what is beautiful, meaningful, and vivid in our own lives. Unawareness causes us to miss signals in our lives both internally and externally…subtle and explicit. We don’t see the details and texture of our own experiences when we cannot be fully and consciously present in the moment… an awakening process to presence itself.

A mindfulness practice helps us to transform our attitudinal foundation both purposefully and intentionally to how we live and relate to our precious yet fleeting moments with genuine ‘presence’. Here & now, we learn to shut off the auto pilot and take over the controls of our own body and mind… we come to awaken and bring discerning awareness to what we are actually doing while we are doing it. The fact is that when we start to pay attention in this way our relationship to things changes- we notice more and we see more detail. By paying attention purposefully, nonjudgmentally, and discerningly we literally become more awake and less attached (i.e. non-identification) to what we are intentionally observing.

In essence, our practice can lead to new ways of seeing, perceiving, relating, and being in our life, because the present moment whenever it is recognized and honored reveals a very special power and space. It’s the only time that any of us ever has… this is why we value moment-to-moment awareness so highly.

Resting in our object of attention over and over again- moment-by-moment eventually opens, reinforces, and refines our inner capacity of awareness. Abiding attention and conscious awareness- training the mind– is cultivated through this repetition of exercising our natural capacity. We all possess the seed of inner sight or mindsight– a clear state of self-awareness- but for it to grow and develop, we need to disrupt the operation of our habituated patterns. Without relaxed, focused, and stable attention in our own experience, we forget what we are really doing and open the door for habitual patterns to operate freely. Forgetfulness is a major roadblock to our practice. When the right intention, attitude, or outlook to be consciously present in our experience is absent, free attention and open awareness cannot be cultivated and habit energy tends to dominate.

When our free attention is awakened- willingly directed and focused on an object of experience, it manifests power for the same reason that emotions have energy and power. When deliberately attending and directing energy at what is experienced, we tend to diffuse or reduce the energy of reactive patterns triggered by that experience. When purposeful and intentional, the attention can become stable and inclusive- allowing us to be aware not only of the object at hand, but also of whatever else we are experiencing at the moment- for example, awareness of thoughts, feelings & sensations without being distracted. Living in mindfulness is awakening our awareness to a life of clarity and vividness as we become liberated from the tyranny of reactive and habituated patterns… habit energy.  A reactive process needs energy to remain a governing and self-perpetuating mechanism operating within us. Without our free attention, it cannot “drive” or thrive. It is this quality of awareness and attention that penetrates and dismantles habit energy.

The routine act of mindful attending has the potential to transform our being into a life of presence as it penetrates our conditioning of fear, anger, hatred, prejudice, etc.- as well as disrupts its operation and ultimately dismantles these habituated and reactive patterns. Taming and training our minds through purposeful and volitional meditation practice changes our relationships to what and how we experience our inner & outer worlds. The practice itself is experiential not intellectual. What stands between reaction and response is a certain quality of attention. As we rest in our attention and in the space between the two, we break this reactionary cycle. We recognize and acknowledge that we are not completely our storylines- or streaming thoughts of mind.

This awareness itself is a rotation of consciousness as the identity and our relationship to that identity of ourselves may at best be only partially true- but not complete. The storyline of ourselves is a product of habituated sensing, perceiving, feeling, and thinking. It’s our mask as to how we may falsely see and present ourselves to the world. Unfortunately, this masquerade may prevent us from living a life that is more meaningful and complete. Awakening to mindfulness can offer us a quality of awareness that disrupts and ultimately breaks our cycles of habituated living. We take the driver’s seat and learn to work with our attention deliberately and skillfully in a light that may lead us to a more conscious, compassionate, and fulfilling way to embrace our lives.