“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness: a word quite familiar to anyone invested in spirituality/self-improvement literature.
There’s so much chatter out there about mindfulness — about actively attuning to the present moment while observing one’s thoughts and feelings from a distanced, decentered perspective — but how does that translate to an individual? What does mindfulness feel like?
For me, mindfulness has a way of making time expand.
When I take the time to notice the ground beneath my feet, the way the sunlight is hitting the pond, the peculiar cloud formations, the crisp air flowing into my nostrils — when I allow myself simply to feel and simply to be, letting my thoughts become akin to the sound of a rushing stream or background birdsong — the present moment seems substantive, endlessly detailed, subtle, pregnant with meaning, complete.
When I focus on my breath and actively soak in the world through my senses, I’m usually able to gain perspective on anything that’s troubling me, to let go of worries, to see my mental state just as something that is, like tree or stone, not something over which to fret.
For me, being mindful feels nourishing. I feel liberated from the drama of connecting past and future, able to do nothing more than exist in the plump, rippling world of the now.
In the duration of this post, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits offers a brief reflection on the power of pausing amidst our hectic schedules, of taking time to notice and feel the present.
More On Mindfulness: Be Here Now by Ram Dass
The Place Where You Are
We rush through our days with so much to do, so much we should be doing, so much we’re missing out on … but how often do we stop to appreciate the place where we are right now?
I don’t mean to focus on the journey, because that’s many different places … but instead to focus on where you are at this particular time. The physical place you’re in, the emotional state you’re in, the phase you are in life.
Pause for a moment, right now, to notice where you are.
What is it like? What is the light like? What about the sounds, the smells, the feelings your body is feeling, the people around you? What is your state of mind? What are you worried about, joyful about? What is stopping you from appreciating this moment?
Find something to be grateful about where you are: if you’re around someone you love, enjoy that. If you’re doing something that makes the world a better place, be happy about that. If you’re in someplace beautiful, be thankful for that.
More On Mindfulness: The Way of Zen by Alan Watts
What if you don’t like where you are? This is something to appreciate as well. Stop and feel your emotions about where you are. See that you are hurting. See that you wish things to be different. How does that feel in your body? Allow it to happen, and realize that it is temporary but a part of life. Not good or bad, just happening.
Then think about all the things you aren’t suffering from: If you aren’t in a war-torn area of the world, give thanks to the stars. If you aren’t suffering from health problems, aren’t sleeping on the streets, aren’t about to die … that’s a minor miracle. You are alive, and life is a wondrous thing to participate in.
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace is probably the best book on mindfulness I’ve encountered, if you’re interested in reading more on the subject. It’s also a beautiful introduction to Buddhist philosophy.
This post originally appeared on ZenHabits.net.