What is mindfulness?

I used to think that mindfulness was about thinking, that I needed to think through everything I was doing- ‘I am opening the door, I am putting my shoes away, etc etc’.  But the more I thought, the more tired I got.  The chatter in my mind was not mindfulness- it was clutter.  Mindfulness is easy, is calm and clear.  I realised what mindfulness is when I read the following words from the Venerable W Rahula:

Mindfulness does not mean that you should think and be conscious,’I am doing this’ or ‘I am doing that’. No. Just the contrary.  The moment you think ‘I am doing this’ you become self conscious and then you do not live in the action but you live in the idea, ‘I am’ and consequently your work is spoilt too.  You should forget yourself completely and lose yourself in what you do.

So for  example if you are looking at something, then just look at it with your whole life and not think, ‘I am looking at it’.  I still get the sorts of thoughts I used to but now I simply observe the thoughts and let them float away like clouds until my mind is clear.

Even moments of joy and suffering can be tools of mindfulness.  As Nichiren, the Buddhist monk said, ‘Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life..’  Many a times, we suffer what is there to enjoy and enjoy what is there to suffer and thus, our whole life becomes miserable.  Instead as Thoreau advised, we should strive to ‘live deep and suck out all the marrow of life’ – whatever that may be.

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