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Mindful : February 2014
Many of us come to mindfulness seeking relief from the confusing jumble of thoughts that domi- nate our lives much of the time. So the first gift that mindfulness gives us—after we get accustomed to the shocking simplicity of sitting and doing noth- ing—is a little bit of peace. We’re no longer as tor- mented by our thoughts, since as we obser ve them come and go, no single thought seems to be a big deal any more. It’s like being at a laundromat watch- ing the clothes tumble in a big dryer. We don’t have to tumble along with the clothes; we can just watch them fall through space. As we gain some spaciousness and peace, we also begin to sharpen our concentration. We ca n hold our attention on a n object longer, whether it’s a difficult problem at work or simply the lines on the roadway ahead. Tranquility and concentration a re great benefits, worthy of celebration. But the mindfulness journey doesn’t end there, because as we develop calm a nd focus, a broader kind of awa reness star ts to come along naturally. Barry Boyce is the Editor-in-Chief of Mindful. Take mindful eating, for example. In this prac- tice of moment-by-moment mindfulness, we pay at tention with a light touch to what we’re putting into our mouths—its taste, texture, aroma, and the act of chewing a nd swallowing. When we extend that to the environment surrounding the meal and everything that food means to us—emotionally, physically, economically, socially, and so on—we’re in the realm of awareness. That’s where the stable lens of a settled mind allows us to see how the world operates and how we interact with it. Awa reness takes our contentment in the present moment and extends it into an ongoing sense of well-being and a deep ca ring for others. It yields insights that will affect the future, because being mindful of the moment does not mea n we’re unreflective and accepting of the status quo. Aware- ness simulta neously creates accepta nce a nd the motivation to ma ke cha nges. Awa reness is not something we manufacture by doing meditation. Like mindfulness, it’s already there, part of our human inheritance. It is precise and vivid, rich and multifaceted, and it can be described in many ways. Here a re just a few of the ways we can come to know ourselves and our world better when the peace of mindfulness blossoms into the open inquisitiveness of awareness. You may begin and end the exercises following each section with a simple mindfulness practice. Sit or stand upright and take 5 or 10 minutes to pay attention to your breathing. Gently return your attention to your breathing when your mind inevitably wanders. in practice insight 72 mindful February 2014