25 Nov What Is It like to Live Without Mindfulness?
Firstly, I just want to point out that mindfulness or being mindful, is not the same thing as observing your breath. In some ways, it can be about breathing in and out, but, isn’t that just a part of what mindfulness is? Let’s step back and see the whole picture. Like an aerial shot, if you will.
I find that most people, when watching tv or talking to a good friend, might think that they are being mindful if they observe and speak calmly, breathing in and out only before entering or leaving the situation they are in. What they don’t realize is that they are observing pleasurable situations in the perfect environment. The body is relaxed, the mind is also relaxed, not too stimulated and yet not too dull either. They are emotionally engaged, at a comfortable level. I mean how much more ideal can this get? It’s like the perfect combination of cozy pajamas and the best sofa! Or, as though the levels of milk and sugar in tea, is just right!
With a talk or situation like this, distractions are minimum and you’ll get right back on to the topic that you were discussing. Paying attention here happens automatically, by default. With a conversation that is, pleasantly, so ideal, or with a tv show that is making you ever so comfortably invested, let me ask you one question.
Are you being mindful of all the aspects in an ideal situation? Watching tv or talking to a good friend is like being in a swimming pool for kids, with floaties on.
Let’s face the facts, you know you are not going to drown. You know the water will be perfect for staying in, however long you want to. You know that it’s relaxing. In this case, you are breathing in and out, normally, unaware of how your body feels. You are just observing life and inputting it into thoughts. That situation has very little to do with swimming, and in that situation, you won’t learn anything. Merely being in contact with water is not enough for that. As you can see, being in the swimming pool for kids is very different to the pleasurable situation of watching tv or talking to a close friend.
There is not much thinking going on, you are not that emotionally invested, and the sensation of your breath seems like the least interesting thing in the world. The swimming pool is like a place where you have maximum support and minimum learning. You can continue being lazy and unaware.
Mindfulness is like paying attention to your breath in a quiet but large lake, without the armbands to protect you. You are completely aware of the fact that the water is cold, and still, you chose to swim there.
It’s tougher than the swimming pool but you can learn to really swim here, you can learn to become comfortable and learn to enjoy that activity. With some practice, it can become near effortless, and you might have a hard time remembering what the appeal of floaties and warm water even was!
Mindfulness is knowing that the situation is not ideal and yet still choosing to stay calm. It’s not about breathing in and out and observing your breath, but living every breath to the fullest. It’s the difference between being in the middle of a big lake and sitting in the kid’s pool. Only one of those activities can make you better at dealing with the wild-water, called life.
Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.