Sunset over the Cheyenne Black Hills
A good friend complained that “Mindfulness” is hard. We were talking about “Being in the moment, the present.”
“I need a few tips…I often slip the present, and, moments later, can hardly remember what happened.”
I asked her to think of how she could be a participant and observer simultaneously. To observe all that she does.
“So hard to practice this – ‘observing.'”
Told her that more would be forthcoming, but that it would be a long and involved subject. Not something gained with just a few tips, in other words. I’d been looking into it for the past many years, ever since publishing ‘Humbling and Humility.’ But it wasn’t a topic I was entirely clear about, enough that I could teach someone else.
I did get around to it…the beginnings of my own thoughts on this esoteric subject.
“Some simple exercises, relating to everyday activities and experience, can help.
“For instance – and this may seem rather simplistic – take coloring picture outlines, something we do as children (if we’ve had parents who’d understood the value therein!). While you fill the picture outlines out with different colors, pay attention – close attention – to whether you are keeping within the lines, filling the outlines out completely, and doing so uniformly. Notice these aspects of what you do…and you are simultaneously an observer and a doer.
“There is no pressure to be a perfectionist in the task, just a requirement to be observant. I think you do this as a practicing dentist…perhaps because you do practice that activity much more than others. What this builds in you is a small sense of detachment from the task itself; your mind is in part engaged in the task and in part observant of how you do. You are a little more “mindful,” because you are engaged in the activity from different perspectives…
“Another is a higher-level contemplation exercise that spans a duration of time, and, in this case, a day. Each day, ask yourself the following questions (and you can add or subtract as you may wish to): What experiences of the day, however routine, gave you pleasure, and what caused you pain? What were you complimented for, and what did you praise? What were fortunate moments of chance, and of misfortune? What deeds were you grateful for, or were repulsed by? What were your acts of giving, of kindness, and what were acts of taking, of harm to others? What did you accomplish this day?
“This exercise, spread over a duration of a day, or a week, a year, or phases of your life, helps comprehend and assimilate key aspects of your own self-development…and social scientists believe that such contemplation leads to a certain knowledge of oneself and feeds happiness. This too is engaging your mind actively in its own progress in time…another act of observation simultaneous with participation. You become, to an extent, conscious of how you live and experience life.
“In one ancient book, there is an explanation of two different pathways to learning and mastery of oneself: the path of the doer, and the path of the thinker. But without doing, one remains academic in one’s learning, and without thinking, one engages only a part of one’s full mind…hence I think of pursuing the path of the the doer and the thinker simultaneously, one of the participant and the observer. And with internal detachment between these mental activities, I think one is neither consumed in, or by, the necessary participation, nor is one lost or lacking in validation along the path of the thinker.
“Does all this make sense? Note that this is just one aspect that relates to the mind; the path toward mindfulness is holistic and involves many other exercises and learning experiences. This is just a taste!
Her response? “MY Goodness!! (and a couple of overwhelmed emoji’s)”