India is a religious country with uncountable faiths and ways of meditation. We are the oldest and richest civilisation. Our scriptures date back to at least 6,000 years ago and are considered to be the manuals for unlocking the inner potential and happiness of human beings. A large part of the 1.38 billion people meditate or try to meditate, and yet, we are 136th in the world happiness index and 13th in the world stress index. Why?
Have you ever sat down to meditate and found that within a few minutes you felt distracted? For some reason, you are not able to focus on the mantra you are reciting, the scripture you are reading, or even on the simple activity of breathing. Your mind goes into “auto-pilot” mode, hopping from one thought to the next, and returns only when the stipulated meditation time is over. For this reason, many of us feel empty even after many meditation sessions. Some resign, thinking that it’s not their cup of tea. For others, their ubiquitous inner critic wakes up and asks, “Why can’t you sit still? When would you get hold of your thoughts?” The answer lies in the realisation that you were not present during the precious moments of meditation, and then to make concerted efforts to become more present.
The practice of mindfulness enables us to listen to our inner critics and examine what they are trying to achieve. With this awareness, our thoughts simply glide, like clouds in the sky, and we tend to start thinking clearly.
Do you often feel that your mind wavers between past and future, between unaccomplished goals of years that are behind us and our vision for days that are ahead? Sometimes, we are caught in the mundane, of our to-do lists, and the repair work that needs attention then comes frivolous. With our minds full of pointless thoughts, it is incredibly difficult to focus on things that matter the most.
Here again, mindfulness comes to your rescue.
Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. To be mindful is to be aware of your own experience, on purpose, every moment, without attaching any judgments. Mindfulness is a practice that can help you manage and prevent feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, or discontent. It enables you to live a more focused, grateful, and purposeful life.
Mindfulness is a value that we all already possess. It’s not something you have to get from someone or somewhere; you just have to learn how to access it.
Author Narayan Liebenson Grady in her book, When Singing, Just Sing — Life as Meditation, provides simple tips on how to be mindful.
“When sitting, just sit.
When eating, just eat.
When walking, just walk.
When talking, just talk.
When listening, just listen.
When looking, just look.
When touching, just touch.
When thinking, just think.
When playing, just play
And enjoy the feeling of each moment and each day.”
Here I add: When meditating, just meditate.
How? The answer is easy: Pause and be an observer of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings. We are often so busy in our thoughts that we miss noticing what is happening outside of our minds.
For example, when I walked to school as a child, my mind would be thinking of homework, biology lessons, friends, and hockey practice. A few years ago, when I walked the same path, I realised how much I missed out on: I missed the beautiful lake, the trees, and the most sublime of all, the smell of the wildflowers. Their fragrance was a treat to the soul.
Mindfulness is a secular practice. It brings us back to the present moment from the messes in our heads. We call it mindful awareness. It’s just like clearing the fields of all the weeds, unwanted shrubs, and stones before planting a new crop. Once the field is ready, one can grow what one wants and have a good yield.
Mindfulness helps you prepare the field of your mind to grow the crop of your beloved religion, whatever one’s idea of religion is, and harvest the hidden gems which enable you to live a happy, content, and blissful life.
Bhupinder Sandhu is a London-based mindfulness coach who believes in the human ability to build a blissful world together
The views expressed are personal