Postdate: 28 November 2016
Much is written about mindfulness, also called awareness training. The godfather of mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn. One of the main conditions for training your awareness is that you have to go for it completely. You can do this by spending some time on it every day, by paying attention to yourself and by living in the here and now.
I think, therefore I am
The basis of mindfulness is awareness training, or 'being attentive'. This is contrary to a fixed way of thinking. A fixed way of thinking will make you get stuck very easily as you just cannot control everything. You are inclined to adopt thoughts as being the truth, because your brain is constantly trying to explain and understand thoughts such as 'why is this happening to me?'. Awareness training allows you to let go of these thoughts. The only thing you need to do is being attentive - mindful - and see the things as they are. The key is not wanting to change the situation, but just to perceive and accept. There are seven basic factors that form the most important pillars of mindfulness training, namely: non-judging, patience, beginner's mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go.
‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’
As soon as things get difficult, you start to worry, while your brain will not come with a brilliant solution on its own. You believe yourself to be in a negative situation again and again when you keep brooding about a rejection for a job application or a tough discussion. Problems get bigger and bigger as soon as you focus on them. Mindfulness contributes to the ability to protect your boundaries. Through acceptance, you will not judge so quickly and accept easier, which leads to openness and relaxation. This is not something you can enforce. When your expectations are too high or your mindset is too negative, you will not succeed. The best way forward is having a small amount of doubt whether it is going to work, but having the best intention to do your best.
You often don't even notice that your mind is wandering, even when you experience complete rest. Only afterwards you are 'startled', waking up from a kind of temporary phase of absence. Training your awareness can be done in a very simple way by being aware of the feeling a certain activity invokes in you. Maybe you are convinced that you are unable to meditate because your thoughts are all over the place. But by being aware that your mind was wandering, you can look at your thoughts without judgement. The important thing is that you are aware of what goes on in your mind. This allows you to recognise patterns.
To train your awareness, you need a certain amount of energy. This may sound contrary, but training and adopting a skill takes time and energy. You can only create awareness when you are perceptive: this way, 'nagging thoughts' can be replaced by space.