Mindfulness is that quality of conscious awareness of whatever arises in our present experience in which there is an attitude of engaged-presence.

Mindfulness is both very simple and very profound, and to really benefit from its remarkable powers you have to approach the subject with a complete openness of mind and heart – but, of course, that is what mindfulness, or sati in the Pali Sanskrit dialect in which the Buddha’s teachings were first recorded over 2000 years ago, is all about. Indeed, this gives us an insight into one of the many dimensions of mindfulness: the quality of openness that goes beyond our usual attitude of tolerance to a level of intense interest and delight in whatever arises in our field of experience. That is openness of mind: the motivation to investigate and to penetrate below the superficial appearance of things to reveal the rich inner dimension of experience in all its sensory and experiential detail. Everyone has experience of the profound pleasure that comes from delving into a hobby or project and becoming intimately connected with the subtlety and detailed workings of that project. Contrast this to the indifference, apathy and negativity of those individuals who have no interest or are prevented from developing intimacy with their world. It is a simple truth that lack of intimacy is unsatisfying and painful, whereas complete intimacy and connection with life experiences is profoundly nourishing and brings great happiness. Mindfulness has this quality of intimacy and connection with all aspects of our life’s unfolding drama. In fact, one of the most direct effects that come with the cultivation of mindful-awareness is the phenomenon of sensory enrichment; as we look more closely at things with an openness of mind, we naturally see and experience more – more sensory detail. Literally, our experience is transformed from black-and-white into vibrant color. Our experience becomes more dynamic and alive; we feel more alive. Contrast this with the sensory depravation that results from the habitual reactivity of the state of unawareness and un-mindfulness. Such un-mindfulness, being out-of-touch with experience and lacking intimate contact with our experience is in Buddhist psychology regarded as the realm of death, personified by Mara – the one who keeps us in a state of ignorance and dissociation from reality.

The second part of this particular dimension of mindfulness is openness of heart. This is described by terms such as friendliness, warmth and compassion. This is where we warmly greet each and every aspect of our experience with a smile; we learn to smile at whatever arises, pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful or ugly, big or small, significant or insignificant. Nothing is excluded; nothing is abandoned. We choose to turn towards our experiences: painful as well as joyful, and greet each as having the right to exist, greeting each as something to be valued and cared for with kindness and compassion.

Mindfulness begins with opening the mind and opening the heart and choosing to be completely present with whatever arises in our experience, quite different that the blind reactivity of the unaware mind. This quality of engaged-presence is perhaps one of the most important dimensions of mindfulness. It is not just about opening to experience, not just about seeing what is happening as it is happening, but of choosing to be fully there with our experience, or with the experience of another person, or indeed with the world in general. This can be described as the difference between being and becoming. When we are mindful, we enter into a relationship with the object of mindfulness characterized by being, a state of inner stillness and non-reactivity where there lots of space to receive and to respond. The state of becoming is a characteristic of the reactive mind, the contracted mind that is never able to be fully present with whatever is happening now such a mind is forever moving away from the now towards something other.

There are many other dimensions of mindfulness, which may become the subject of future articles, but suffice it to say that learning this simple response to our emotional suffering characterized by openness of mind and openness of heart is the beginning of the healing process. It produces an inner spacious dimension in which change can happen. As I frequently say to my clients and students:

‘Reactivity inhibits change; mindfulness promotes change. The Path of Mindfulness is the empowering choice of creating the fertile space in which beneficial change can take place’

Author's Bio: 

Peter Strong, PhD is a scientist and Mindfulness Psychotherapist, based in Boulder, Colorado, who specializes in the study of mindfulness and its application in Mindfulness Psychotherapy. He uses Mindfulness-based Psychotherapy in combination with NLP to help individuals overcome the root causes of anxiety, depression, phobias, grief and post-traumatic stress (PTSD). He also teaches mindfulness techniques to couples to help them overcome habitual patterns of reactivity and interpersonal conflict.

Online Counseling is available via Skype.

Visit http://www.mindfulnessmeditationtherapy.com and http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com
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