Every Day, In Small Ways, We Can Be Mindful

It is straight forward to introduce small changes in order to embrace a more mindful way of living that can then become an intuitive part of life. All that is necessary is to take a moment at strategic points of the normal day…

  • On waking, before rising, take a moment to pay attention to your breath. Observe five mindful breaths
  • Each time you move, take a moment to notice changes in posture: from lying down to sitting, to standing, to walking
  • Use any and every sound as a bell for mindfulness- the sound of a bird singing, a phone ringing, a train passing, a door closing, laughter, footsteps. Truly listen, be present and awake in the moment
  • Consistently, throughout the day check back in with your breath. Give it your attention and observe five mindful breaths
  • At mealtimes, snack times take a moment to breathe, connect with the food- its gift to your health, its journey to your plate…smell, taste, observe, savour, cherish, chew and appreciate your food
  • Throughout the day take a moment at various intervals to notice your body, posture, position, the connection to the ground, the air touching your face, legs, arms, are you moving slowly, quickly, gracefully?
  • Bring awareness when you can to listening and talking…can you listen without judgement- without agreeing or disagreeing? Without liking or disliking- simply listening without planning your reply? When talking can you simply state what needs to be said without overstating or understating? How do you feel? How does your body feel?
  • If you are standing in a queue- as we often do- take a moment to observe your breathing, the connection of your feet with the floor, your posture and how your body feels…how do you feel about queuing? Notice your breathing, the rise and fall of your abdomen and chest
  • Throughout the day check in with your body, are there any points of tightness or tension? Can you breathe into them to release the tension? Breathe slowly, mindfully and let go of tension. Identity where you are holding tension and stretch whilst focusing on the release of stress
  • Give small daily activities real attention, such as brushing your teeth, washing up, getting dressed… bring mindfulness to each and every activity
  • Every night before sleep take a few minutes to reflect, to relax and to pay attention to your breathing. Observe five mindful breaths

‘The art of mindful living requires keen interest and a lifetime of gentle and determined effort, falling asleep and remembering to wake up, again and again.’  Larry Rosenburg. ‘Breath by Breath’.

Living In The Moment, Not In Our Heads

A powerful influence takes us away from being fully present: our automatic tendency to judge our experiences as not being quite right somehow; not good enough; not as expected; hoped  for; desired.These judgements then lead us into sequences of thought about blame, guilt, about what needs to or should be different and what could or should be changed. Indeed these thoughts often take us down well travelled and well worn paths in our minds- almost automatically and thus we lose awareness of the moment, the real moment and the freedom to chose what action needs to be taken.

We can regain our freedom if, as a first step, we simply acknowledge the reality and actuality of our situation, without being hooked into automatic tendencies to judge, fix, or desire things to be other than they are. The body scan provides an opportunity to practise simply bringing an interested and friendly awareness to the way things are in each moment, without having to do anything to change things….to accept and to simply be.

Alongside the body scan daily practise can include specific activities to develop the habit of mindfulness. Taking time once a day to eat mindfully- to really take time to observe, smell, taste, chew and savour each and every mouthful is a valuable tool in every day routine as is mindful walking. A daily walk is food for the mind, body and soul in terms of health but to do so mindfully, savouring the sights and sounds around, the sensation of the ground beneath you is to truly embrace the full advantage of this simple exercise.

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

Image result for mindful walking

 

A Few Wise Words on Wisdom

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young, nor weary in search of it when he is grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the benefits of philosophy.

Epicurus; Letter to Menoeceus

The unexamined life is not worth living

Socrates; the Apology

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof of fine gold.

She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

Proverbs 3:  13: 15

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Albert  Einstein

The Wisdom Within

Philosophy gives us the opportunity to think more deeply about the subjects that really matter to us eg. What does it all mean? Who am I? What is my part in all this? How can I find meaning and satisfaction in life? Philosophy deals with the big ideas, which govern human life. The world we live in is shaped by philosophy, whether we know it or not. For example, Plato lived over 2000 years ago and what he said about subjects such as truth, beauty and justice have influenced the world to this day. Philosophy can simplify , clarify, enrich and provide direction to our lives, especially when other areas of life fall into a state of uncertainty or doubt. It can give us a greater sense of perspective.

Ultimately philosophy can rise our awareness, to enable us to see things for what they are and bring us closer to our true selves. In this sense, it is the supreme means of self discovery.

Philosophy means:

  • Philo: love of
  • Sophia: Wisdom

Finding Wisdom

The dictionary definition of wisdom is ‘experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them practically’ (Oxford English Dictionary) In a sense anyone who has mastered their trade or area of specialism could be called wise in their sphere of knowledge- for example, if we call someone a wise doctor we may mean he or she has knowledge and experience of  medicine and is able to apply it practically.

However in our case as philosophers, the idea is not to be a wise doctor, or wise anything else, but to be wise people. We are interested in life itself- therefore the knowledge we seek is that which can enable us to master the art of living.

So when we use wisdom, we can define it to mean that knowledge which will enable a person to live truly happily.

The Concept

Wisdom is not just about the mind. It is also a question of being: the state of one’s being. Sometimes life can seem shallow, the mind continuously darting around on the surface without much experience of real depth. The experience of depth paves the way for greater wisdom and understanding.

In order to help bring about a greater depth of experience it is necessary to gain the ability to become truly still. This is not just stillness at the physical level but also stillness of the mental and emotional activity. This can be achieved by focussing on the five senses. Pay close attention to what is experienced through them. Allow the attention to drink deeply from what is presented from the exercise.

The Exercise

First, let the mind be free of any concern or occupation.. Be aware of where you are now..Feel the body…Feel the weight of the body on the chair… Feel the gentle pressure of the clothes upon the skin.. Be aware of where you are now…Feel the touch of your feet on the ground… And the play of air on the hands and face.. If they are open let the eyes receive colour and form without any comment..Taste… Smell..Be fully here…Now be aware of hearing…Let sounds be received and let them rise and fall without comment or judgement of any kind…With the body completely relaxed, let the hearing run right out to the furthest and greatest sounds, embracing all and rest in the great awareness for a few moments.

Source: Mindfulness Course, Tunbridge Wells 2013