The benefits of mindfulness meditation have dated back to the earliest human life. Today, mindfulness has become a common term in our language, thanks primarily to yoga studios, wellness centers, and even mass media. So, what is mindfulness really about?
The term mindfulness can is actually easily misunderstood. Despite its name, mindfulness has nothing to do with the use of the mind in the usual sense. It’s not about thinking thoughts or being cautious, it’s simply a matter of being present and paying attention to what’s happening right now.
For this reason, I actually prefer to use the phrase “present moment awareness,” because it takes away any connotation of labor or effort. Being aware is the easiest thing in the world. In fact, I strongly suggest that it’s our natural state, prior to all the conditioning we’ve accumulated over a lifetime. When you were born and opened your eyes to the world for the first time, simple, unadulterated awareness, curiosity, and alertness spilled out. When you wake up each morning and open your eyes, the very same unconditioned, unfiltered awareness greets the day, before concerns, worries, plans, and schedules rush to set it. We may think of these activities as “mindful” because they require tremendous effort and extract a stressful toll, but, by contrast, “present moment awareness” is actually effortless and automatic.
Even though we may have forgotten how to be aware, it’s as natural to us as breathing. The practice of mindfulness is less about learning a new skill than about rediscovering a skill we already have. We have to uncover the skill that has fallen into disuse and been obscured by distractions, acquired beliefs, and habitual negative patterns of thinking and feeling. When you sit quietly with awareness of your breathing, bodily sensations, sounds, thoughts, and feelings, you’re lending energy to the awareness that’s always already there. No need for extra effort, no need to tense up, concentrate, or focus. Just relax and allow your awareness to open to what’s happening right now.
If you engage in the practice of mindfulness with the understanding that you already know how to do it, you’ll save yourself time and struggle. Instead of a journey to a faraway, unfamiliar, place, consider it a homecoming. We may have scattered our awareness on so many distractions, worries, and concerns, but as soon as we turn back to find it, our natural, inherent state of awareness welcomes us home without reservation. Mindfulness is your birthright and meditation is an opportunity to reclaim it. So, do it.
*Stephan Bodian is a world-renowned meditation teacher, psychotherapist, and consultant specializing in stress management and positive psychology. He is the author of the Mental Workout programs, Mindfulness Meditation and Freedom from Stress, available inside the Mental Workout app on www.mentalworkout.com, among others.