Say mindfulness, what are the images and words that come to your mind? The first few for me are peace, quite, being with self, reduced suffering…
But how about the other side? How about experiencing more joy and happiness in life? Can Mindfulness really work there? Well, in the video here, Shinzen Young does talk about the ability to experience small pleasures with enormous satisfaction as a benefit of meditation. So lets explore more.
But first a quick detour to define Mindfulness. I like a definition I heard from Professor Ronald Seigel of Harvard Medical School – Mindfulness is ‘‘Awareness of the present moment with loving acceptance’’. In the Unified Mindfulness system we define Mindfulness as developing 3 core skills Concentration – the ability to focus on what matters, Clarity – awareness of sensory experience in the moment and Equanimity being “cool” about what you are experiencing without pushing it away or getting stuck to it.
Now back to the query, can mindfulness really Elevate fulfilment as Shinzen says? I am reminded of an experience when I started integrating mindfulness practise with morning walk. My morning walk used to be about watching the minutes, counting the steps, avoiding stepping on poops and puddles, saving myself from bumping head on with fellow walkers, while the mind was lost in various unfinished agenda and conversations. Mostly I would be feeling rushed, exhausted yet pushing myself for ‘a little more’.
The experience started shifting as I began practising Mindfulness while walking. I became aware of sounds and sights around me – birds chirping, children giggling flowers blooming and wilting. I started meeting eyes and exchanging smiles and nods. My exercise became more pleasurable. And then one day, the glorious moment that’s etched in my mind. I sensed the first rays of the sun on my arm as it came up from behind a sky scrapper. So gentle, so pleasant. I stood still for a few moments. This has been happening all along, only I wasn’t available to experience it. What else have I been missing ? What are those beautiful gifts of life fleeting away and I am not noticing?
Interestingly the same day I had a coaching session with an Senior executive slated to take up a global role. His core agenda – achieving work life balance. I admit my first thought was ‘his days are going to be only more demanding and busy … how do I…’ Nevertheless, after the usual reframing, reflecting etc I introduced him to some mindfulness and somatic practises that works for him in his schedule. A month later he reported being able to be equanimous with distractions and focus on what matters. He could accomplish more in a day and also be more available to family. Actually not much had changed in the number of hours he was spending at home or work. But being present in the moment helped him experience the fullness of accomplishment at work and warmth at home. Experiencing it somatically and cherishing what was perhaps always happening around him waiting for his presence. Much like the sunrays on my arm.
I wonder how it’s for you? Lunch with friends, tea with spouse, dinner with family, TV with kids, or even vacations. Are you available and present ? Or lost in your mobile phone and chatter in mind, fixing the rues of life? Are you willing to explore and find out how would life be if we could take a full serving of the present moment and experience simple joys of life with ‘enormous satisfaction’?
Mindful and Joyful – it works!