Between stimulus and response there is a space where we pause to take stock. If you are able to do this pause and make it a habit, then you are someone who is likely to live and breathe ‘mindfulness’. You are aware and wise in your responses to the world around you. You are free from the tyranny of the mind and truly a master of your own destiny.
Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Mindfulness can be learned like you learn a new habit and it needs to be sustained. The more you meditate and cultivate your habits and patterns of thinking and behaviour, the better you will be at it. The true meaning of meditation is to become the see-r and never the judge-r. The objective see-r is the one we want to be because it allows us to ‘take a step back’ in our minds and observe things from the perspective of our spiritual heart where true wisdom dwells. We don’t want to always be making decisions from just our thinking mind where 99.9% of our perceptions are skewed because of the filters we wear. We want to learn to function from an awakened spiritual heart as well. So, in a nutshell, we could say mindfulness is the practice of being the see-r, one who understands the difference between response and reaction, and is not ego-driven.
Mindfulness begins at ‘home’
Chiefly, this means an overhaul of who you are in terms of how you think, speak and behave and this is based on your beliefs, values and the norms you have adopted and continue to influence you since birth. Experiences that you have had which shaped you. Conditions of worth imposed on you to extract compliance and obedience. Layer-by-layer, these will be peeled back as you sit more and more, as your inner wisdom goes to work to expose what it needs to be exposed and then given up for something better. It can (will) be a painful process, this getting to know yourself because well, you can’t believe that you can become mindful of the next person if you weren’t mindful about who you were in the first place, right?
In addition, events and circumstances will conspire to give you lots of learning opportunities for growth. Yes, these are painful as well. But think of it this way, it’s only when things are brought to the light that we can deal with them. If we peer under the bed and find hair balls there, surely we won’t pretend we didn’t see them, right? So, mindfulness can be a pretty tough process of transformation. We get to see what we don’t really want to see or have to deal with. Yes, we will need to overhaul quite a bit on this path of awakening…. but guess what, Rome wasn’t built in a day and so, neither should you stress yourself out over having to be ‘perfect’ (no such thing!) overnight.
Intentions shape thoughts and words;
Thoughts and words shape actions;
Thoughts, words, and actions shape behaviours;
Behaviour is the language we use to interact with the world;
Over time, behaviours shape our character, that whom we have become.
In my own experience, the process has its own wisdom and you are never given more than you can chew. The beauty of it is that once you consent to the path, you will want to change and spring clean your life. Like my Zen teacher would say, you will polish that mirror of our mind and heart so that it’s always as clean, clear, and bright as we can make it. Much of yoga does the same thing as well. One who keeps faith with a yoga sadhana will experience the same results as the practice of Zen, meditation, and mindfulness. You will grow in all aspects of body, mind, spirit, and soul.
How to cultivate awareness with the 61-point body scan or yoga nidra
In recent times, folks have take certain aspects of yoga and made them more contemporary and taught as a mindfulness technique. Take for example, the body scan performed in MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction. This practice has its source in the ancient tomes of yoga, in particular the Mandukya Upanishad where it describes the sound of God, Aum, as 4 aspects of ‘sleep’ or the ‘waking state’. You can find a picture depicting the 61 points on the body and the accompanying meditation technique. How it became the yoga nidra that we know today is due to Swami Satyananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga who made the technique more contemporary and included it as part of the Savasana or Corpse Pose.
In the yoga studio, we are often taken into yoga nidra at the end of a session when we finally lie down in Savasana to find our equilibrium before we resume the madness in our lives. While in yoga nidra, we scan and relax the body from the toes to the crown focussing on 61 points of the body as we work our way up. This scanning technique is actually very useful as you transfer it to other areas of your life. It teaches us to become more aware of what’s happening in our bodies or minds for that matter, pinpoint where we might be holding any tension and letting it go.
As we transfer this skill to other areas of our lives, and it is really good for zeroing in on emotions as well, insight and awareness grows and brings to our attention what really drives our intentions and hence our thoughts, speech, and behaviour. And that’s where mindfulness begins at home when we are confronted with all that is good, bad, and ugly in ourselves. It’s never about changing anybody else except ourselves. Mindfulness is just that. Keeping the mirror of our mind and perception clean, clear, and bright so that we see the truth always. So that our intentions is the first thing we examine. And the rest to follow.
~ ॐ ~