On my way to work, I was listening to the radio. 106.9 (Fanshawe College) in London, Ontario, had an hour long program on mindfulness. Apparently, mindfulness is beneficial. We all probably know about it. We usually hear about these things. It made me think, though. How mindful are we really?
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. The example on the radio show was having a coffee and being really aware of drinking it, using all five senses. A person should be aware of all qualities of the coffee. The coffee tastes slightly sweet. It looks dark with a touch of cream floating on top of the cup. It is hot to the touch. It smells caramel-like. The sip of coffee rushing into the mouth can be heard even from the kitchen. All senses being present sounds wonderful! Do we ever do this, though? Are we ever this mindful about anything in our lives?
I do not think that most of us are seriously mindful. A good example for this is the way we talk about ourselves. We go to a party. After the initial introduction of our names, the first question we ask is…? Care to guess? The question is: what do you do for a living? Yes. We compartmentalize our lives and focus on professions. We are aware of the “who is who” in the room. Do we ever expand beyond this single-minded focus? The doctor we are talking to may also be a mother, a wife, an environmentalist, a philosopher and a yoga enthusiast. She may read books about the Second World War, go camping on weekends and sing pop songs in the shower. Are we aware? Probably not. What about ourselves? What am I? I am… Yes, I am tempted to say…writer or security professional. Surely, I write books and have a Security and Private Investigator License. But, is this all I am? Am I really aware of what else I am? I also read philosophy books and I am interested in mysticism, near-death experience, death-bed visions, reincarnation theories, so-called paranormal phenomena and other altered states of consciousness. I am married. I like long-distance running, nature and architectural photography and playing scrabble with my nephew. Am I aware of all these aspects of myself in that room full of people? Probably not.
The issue is that we are unaware of our lives and environment. We are unaware that life happens when we are busy making plans. We are single-mindedly identifying with our professions in the present and make plans accordingly in the future. The rest seems to just slide by.
We may need to slow down, perhaps, just a little. We need to be aware of more of what is going on. I wish we could have a party where none of us would be allowed to mention what we do for a living. Instead, we would get to know ourselves and all others around us, a little better. We could certainly be and exist more in the present. Otherwise, how are we ever going to capture the magic of life, if we are unaware what is right in front of us?
So, how is that coffee now with all five senses present? Is the experience any different?
M. J. Mandoki