Mindfulness isn’t a thing, it’s the absence of a thing. The thing that mindfulness is an absence of is unconscious conditioned responses. This is where we respond to an experience the way that we have learned to, without conscious awareness or thought.
How we spend our live in unconscious consciousness
This might be just how we spend our time while traveling our it could be something deeper such as how we respond to a family member or a colleague.
These sort if responses aren’t bad, but one unconscious response can lead to another and we can find ourselves with a complex pattern of behaviour that just limits our happiness and peace of mind.
Unconscious responses in action
Let me give you an example. Let’s take commuting. Thinking back to when I was working in central London, the commute, especially the morning commute, was a significant source of stress for me.
I was one of those people that calculates where the doors of the train would be, then stands there hoping to get into the train first. The reason for that is that I could then get a seat and I wouldn’t be squashed up against the other commuters when the train was busy which would add to my already significant burden of stress. When the doors opened I would dash for any seats I could find, but sometimes, someone would beat me to it. When that happened I would purse my lips and then spend the journey standing and seething internally. My thoughts were invariably about what I was going to do at work, going round and round in my head for the entire journey.
This would then be one of the many negative experiences that would add up to my having a bad day. I had a lot of bad days. I know I wasn’t alone.
In time, as I developed my mindfulness practice, that same scenario would still play out but at some point I would become aware of how my response to that experience was making me feel. This means that I would feel the Internal sensation of my personal stress and it would dissolve or dissipate. This is what happens to negative emotions when we develop mindfulness. They subside and we regain a sense of proportion. Our responses are proportionate to the experience.
Now, if that happened to me I would become aware instantly of any negative emotional response, I focus my awareness on it and it subsides.
Whether I’m standing or sitting, I can meditate to calm my mind no matter how crowded the train gets.
I still like to get a seat on the train but it has stopped being a problem when I don’t.
I hope this helps to give you an idea of how mindfulness can help you. If you’d like to try mindfulness training, come to one off my drop-in classes, book a course or arrange for a free online mindfulness coaching session.
Robert teaches mindfulness courses at Bromley Mindfulness. Click here to find out more.