Text: Jerry Browstein
Mindfulness is an ages-old practice that teaches you to be focused on the present moment so that you can make conscious choices. In recent years it has become a major buzzword throughout our society – not just in the spiritual/self-help community, but in science, academia, business and the media. It seems like every other week a new scientific study comes out showing how mindful meditation can actually change the way our brains work. Many big companies, including Apple and Facebook, are seeing the value of mindful meditation and are making it available to their workers. Google has gone one step further by giving all of their 52,000 employees free courses in mindfulness with the stated intention to: “Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace.” This reflects an emerging global awareness that the way to create positive transformation in our lives and in the world around us is by elevating our individual consciousness. Mindfulness is the key to making this happen, so let’s have a look at how it works.
Each of us has the freedom to choose whom we wish to be every minute of our lives. This is the gift of free will, but most people do not have the ability to use it. Why is that so? The main reason is that our thoughts and actions are dominated by the unconscious programming that we have acquired during our lives. This programmed behaviour is stored in your subconscious mind, and it will always take over when your conscious mind is not paying attention. The subconscious mind can only repeat things from your past conditioning, so most of the time we are automatically repeating old patterns of behaviour – we are reacting instead of acting. The way to restore your free will and regain control of your life is through mindfulness, which simply means having the presence and awareness to make conscious choices rather than being run by old unconscious programming.
A mindful person remembers to resist their automatic reactions and then chooses to follow the guidance of their inner wisdom. For example, suppose you find yourself in a certain type of situation that has always made you angry in the past. As the incident unfolds you feel the anger start to rise within you… but then… if you are being mindful… you stop for a second. Instead of reacting as you always have, you mentally take a step back and ask yourself this question: Is that who I want to be in this situation? Do I really want to be that angry reacting person, or can I choose a better way to deal with this? You then listen for the answer that comes from your heart – it will always steer you in the right direction. Mindfulness gives you the space to choose whom you wish to be. Instead of blindly reacting with old negative patterns you can choose to handle every situation in a more positive way.
This sounds very simple but it is not always so easy. In fact it can be quite a challenge because you must overcome an entire lifetime of following your subconscious programming – the ideas, actions and beliefs you inherited from your past. Even when you are determined to be mindful you may still continue to think, say and do things that are not in harmony with whom you wish to be… and that is OK. It is natural for these engrained reactions to persist, but don’t worry because that resistance will eventually melt away if you maintain your intention to be mindful. The simple key is to become aware of when you have unconsciously followed one of your old patterns of behaviour… and then gently correct yourself. Doing this triggers your mind to create new pathways in your brain that are aligned with your new conscious choices. At the same time your old inherited mental pathways gradually lose their strength.
The first step in creating this kind of positive transformation in your life is to set your intention to consciously cultivate mindfulness. Just like building muscles requires a commitment to working out at the gym, building the strength to make mindful choices requires a commitment to doing the ‘exercise’ of regular meditation. Meditating as little as five minutes every day is enough to strengthen your mindfulness muscles. Meditation calms your mind and allows you to be aware of all the thoughts that are trying to get your attention. Over time you begin to develop a sense of the separation between this stream of thoughts and your true self which is the one who is watching those thoughts.
Through meditation you become familiar with ‘the space between’ you and your thoughts, and that is the same space that allows you to practice mindfulness. Remember, the key to mindfulness is being able to step away from your automatic reactions so that you have the space to make a conscious choice of how to act. A regular meditation practice makes it easier for you to take that step back... and to step into the space that exists between your unconscious reaction and the possibility of making a conscious choice. This gives you the power to shape your personality and behaviour in ways that are aligned with your inner wisdom. It will not only make your life more joyous in every way, but you will also become part of the Consciousness Revolution – those who are holding the space and creating the vibration for all of humanity to evolve to its greatest potential.
“Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we intend to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply inner connected with one another. Working on our own consciousness is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment, and being love is the supreme creative act.” •
~ Ram Dass