Wednesday, 1 May 2019

How’s It Going?

Can you recall, in precise detail, everything that happened for you in the moments just before you started reading this? The mental flowchart of choice-making and intention? The spontaneous co-ordination of your senses? The myriad micro-movements of your body’s muscles, tendons and ligaments?

Probably not. Even if you think you can, try extending the same question to the last five minutes of your life, which will appear as a blur of changing moments, some of which you may be able to account for, but many of which you won’t.

This is quite normal. Life flows. It's always changing. We have an experience. We remember bits of it. Mostly we don’t. Most of what happens vanishes like a dream. We like to think we are in charge of our experience when, in fact, minds are running on auto-pilot much of the time, rendering us oblivious to such facts of existence. Becoming clearer about this – getting real about it – is a central project of mindfulness practice.

You Are Reading This

Consider, for example, your experience of reading this blog. Have there been occasions when you’ve noticed that, although you thought you were reading the words and taking them in, your attention had wandered to something else entirely? And then you realized that you couldn’t remember the last bit you read?

Perhaps you decided to retrace your steps. Maybe you went back a few words or lines and read them again, only to discover that they were vaguely familiar? If you did, well spotted for noticing that your mind had wandered in the first place.

Here’s what happened. You definitely experienced those words, otherwise they would not be familiar, right? But you weren’t aware of them. Experience and awareness are different. The word ‘experience’ comes from the Latin experiri, meaning ‘to try’. The word ‘awareness’ comes from the Greek horan, which means ‘to see’.

Experience implies participating in an event while awareness implies an observation, or overview, of that participation. So, on one level, you engaged with those ‘missing’ words but, on another level, you didn’t. During those moments, the aware part of you failed to show up. This is mindlessness in action.

By contrast, that moment you ‘woke up’ to the fact that you had drifted, you assumed a position of both participant and observer. This is mindfulness in action.

Taking the Mick Out of Mindfulness

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