Being present when Life is happening to us is an opportunity we seem to consistently squander.
As I set out on my evening walk with Vaani on Sunday, a couple of physical conditions, a blister on my right foot and a fresh episode of my rheumatoid arthritis of my back, were nagging me. There were stabs of pain for several minutes. But in a while, I lost myself to my walk. The chatter of the birds as they got together at dusk, the warm evening breeze, the half-moon up in the sky and the prayer bells tolling at the large bungalow that lay on our walking route – all these elements fascinatingly conspired to push my pain away. How I was feeling was now entirely connected to the joy I was deriving from my walk. Important, I was not drawing from my physical condition; it was only about how I was feeling, how I was being!
When I reflect on Sunday’s walk and think of how my pain dissolved I can only relate to what I have learnt reading and listening to Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He’s always championed mindfulness. Initially I used to think that mindfulness is difficult. I have now come to believe that mindfulness is living. If you are not mindful, you are not living, you are merely existing.
Mindfulness is the ability to soak in every aspect of Life that you are experiencing. And, surely, our experiences are beyond what we think is important. Our experiences include whatever is happening to us, around us. Take my Sunday experience. Yes, I was in physical pain. But I had also made a choice to step out on a walk. And the walk offered me a therapeutic opportunity to heal – through soaking in the magic and beauty of the evening. Because I immersed myself in whatever else the evening was offering, and did not just cling on to my pain, the pain dissolved. It was there. But it receded into the background. Each moment of my walk held me in a rapturous state. This is what mindfulness does to you. It makes you live each moment fully.
Consider your own context now. What aspects of your Life are you focused on? If you are obsessing over some form of physical or emotional pain, step back a little bit. Zoom out. Feel what else is available in you, around you, to celebrate Life. Don’t say there’s nothing to celebrate! Each breath you take is a cause for celebration because it confirms that you are alive! So you can focus on your breathing. Or on a flower. Or you can look at your child’s face, perhaps at the picture in your wallet, and smile. This is called living. This is what mindfulness brings to you – the opportunity to live in each moment, ecstatically, without wasting it.
Most of us however are squandering – with alarming consistency – this opportunity to live fully! Because we are like ostriches – our heads are buried deep in our problems. That’s why most of the time, we are merely existing. That’s also why, almost always, we are searching for happiness, instead of being happy!