Modern urban life is characterised by busy-ness, with much of our time taken up with external demands on our attention – work, other people, TV, radio, newspapers, internet, emails, billboard advertising – often taking us away from ourselves and what we really value.
Mindfulness is a way of coming back to ourselves, of being fully present to our experience of our self, our surroundings and other people. Mindfulness is a way of being in the present moment, of living in the now, rather than being pulled into the past or the future. And the present moment is the only moment we’ve got to be alive – the only time when we can be happy.
Of course we can learn from the past and we need to plan for the future, but these things can be done with a full awareness of the present moment. What is unhelpful is the almost constant, involuntary sliding away from present-moment experience into thoughts about the past and future that most people engage in. This leads to a feeling of abstraction – of life being only half-lived, and it is profoundly unsatisfying.
Have you ever stopped what you were doing for a moment and really listened to the sounds around you? Or really looked at something, not just glanced without really noticing it, but really looked? Or really tasted something you were eating? When we really listen, or look, or taste, or give anything our full, undivided attention, we enter a different dimension of experience – an experience of greater fullness, richness, simplicity, peace. And if we can then learn to act from that experience everything we do will have more significance, will be more effective, because we’re more aware, more alive, more present.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”