If you are anything like me, you may have confused mindfulness with meditation; something requiring you to be in a certain space, a particular position and removed from distraction or other activity.
Well, I’ve come to learn that while mindfulness practice can be enhanced through meditation, they are not one in the same.
Mindfulness is about bringing conscious awareness and presence to what is right in front of us or perhaps, what is occurring within us as an emotional, physical, spiritual or intellectual sensation.
The Heart of the Matter
Before I had even heard the term mindfulness, I received a teaching that helped me to understand it more clearly today.
Many years ago, I attended a silent retreat centered in Buddhist meditation practice. We spent many hours in a seated position. Silent. During the course of the weekend, we were also introduced to chanting.
A space had been carved in the silence for a question and answer period on the last day of the retreat. Most of the questions focused on the accuracy of the chant; saying the right words, holding the right tone and doing it in the right order.
Our teacher for the weekend guided us to recognize that it was not about right or wrong, that the clarity of the words, the volume of the chant or the correct order or perfect pronunciation was not at the heart of the matter.
We were reminded that feeling into the practice was the most crucial element. The ability to hold a pure and objective intention to simply engage in the moment within our hearts would be more powerful than a day’s worth of disconnected chanting.
So, when mindfulness became a hot topic of conversation and sought after state of being, I was reminded of this learning as I struggled to understand what mindfulness would look like in my day to day life.
Some of the essential ingredients involved in mindfulness include acceptance, non-judgement, willingness to observe, openness to feeling, and release of resistance.
Mindfulness. It’s a Gateway to Self-Connection
Here’s what I have noticed. Mindfulness leads to self-connection. Mindfulness is a pathway to self-connection. In self-connection, I have a front row seat to my own experience including the emotions, the feelings, the thoughts, the beliefs, the desires of my heart and I become intrigued and curious about this exploration.
Using mindfulness as a gateway to self-connection makes it easier to stay out of the stories that we often create in order to make sense of our circumstances in a logical and intellectual way. This can be helpful or harmful depending on the details of the storyline.
In a mindful place as you experience deeper levels of self-connection you can begin to cultivate a deeper capacity to witness yourself. You become the observer who is deeply present and engaged AND also open to whatever arises for you through your senses. And this is where self-compassion is born.
Self-compassion is the capacity to hold space for our own evolution and process without expecting it to be different in any way and to love ourselves through it all. There is no need to resist what we discover, no need to berate ourselves for anything and no need to fix. Self-compassion is the utter acceptance and unconditional love for you.
And guess what? This depth of self-connection and self-compassion expands your ability to offer connection and compassion to others. Real, genuine, authentic connection and compassion.
Is there anything more powerful than that within the context of transformative relationships?
It is a practice that deepens your experience of joy and softens your times of sorrow. It is a practice that provides a glimpse, moment by moment into your authentic nature. Your most powerful gifts of service to others is found right there.
With a mindful approach, you can move away from “right and wrong,” step out of the contrast of “good and bad” and embrace what is in this moment. The only “right and wrong” that becomes important is what feels right or wrong to your own heart.