Being mindful as we practice yoga: aware that we are here, aware of our body and how it feels, aware of the breath and the movement, is not easy. It requires effort and discipline, for the simple reason that the forces that work against our being mindful, namely our habitual unawareness and automatic pilot mode, are very tenacious. They are so strong and so much out of our consciousness that an inner commitment and a certain kind of work are necessary just to keep up our attempts to capture our moments in awareness and sustain mindfulness. But it is intrinsically satisfying work because it puts us in touch with many aspects of our lives that are habitually overlooked and lost to us.
It is also enlightening and liberating work. It is enlightening in that it literally allows us to see more clearly, and therefore come to understand more deeply, areas in our lives that we are out of touch with or unwilling to look at. This may include encountering deep emotions – such as grief, sadness, hurt, anger and fear – that we might not ordinarily allow ourselves to hold in awareness or express consciously. We also come to appreciate feelings such as joy, peacefulness and happiness which often go by fleetingly and unacknowledged. It is liberating in that it leads to new ways of being in our own skin and in the world, which can free us from the ruts we so often fall into. It is empowering as well because paying attention in this way opens channels to deep reservoirs of creativity, intelligence, imagination, clarity, determination, choice and wisdom within us.
We tend to be particularly unaware that we are thinking virtually all of the time. The incessant stream of thoughts flowing through our minds leaves us very little respite for inner quiet. And we leave precious little room for ourselves anyway just to be, without having to run around doing things all the time. Our actions are all too frequently driven rather than undertaken in awareness, driven by those perfectly ordinary thoughts and impulses that run through the mind like a coursing river, if not a waterfall. We get caught up in the torrent and it winds up submerging our lives as it carries us to places we may not wish to go and may not even realise we are headed for.
We are learning to get out of that current, sit by its banks and listen to it, learn from it, and then use its energies to guide us rather than tyrannise us. This process does not happen magically by itself, it takes energy. We call the effort to cultivate out ability to be in the present moment, practice.
Wisdom form Jon Kabat-Zinn “Wherever you go There you are”.