we attend to the moment with full attention. And this attending, or attention, is one thing that is cultivated through the practice of mindfulness.
When I meditate outside in nature, the aliveness of the moment is most evident in the trees, the breeze, birds, bugs, light and shadow. Through my stillness, I once again consciously experience my place in the mystique and aliveness that can only be felt as it occurs. Mindfulness is a practice of simplicity so that we can become aware of this aliveness not only around us, but within us, and this awakens us back to our true nature of connectedness to the All That Is. We are changing and unfolding just as the leaves once again find their place within the season and the wind dances through in a configuration that happens only once for all of time.
When we begin the practice of mindfulness, we begin with our breath. We explore the different characteristics and qualities of each breath. At first, it is interesting because most of us have never taken the time to explore our breath--except maybe when we were quite young, before we were conditioned to focus primarily on external objects or our not enoughness. Or sometimes when there is a life experience that hinders our breath or movement.
So, we explore. Is the breath going fast or slow? Is it deep or shallow? Is it smooth or shaky? Consistent or erratic? How about now? What about its texture? Thick, thin? Its temperature?
After a while, though, that rudimentary inquiry may become boring. The mind wanders. We come back...seemingly to the same old breath. Oh, yeah, now its a little more calm and steady, which can sometimes make it even more boring. But as we steady our focus and the mind calms down (eventually) what else arises? Sensations? Wakefulness? A shift in perspective that includes the immediate environment? An awareness of connection to all that surrounds us?
If we cloud our breath practice with a conceptual overlay generated by the mind--judgement, noting, etc.--we lose that direct connection with the breath and all else that is in our awareness at the moment of the breath. There is an awakening that transcends our thoughts about what is transpiring and it is this awareness that our practice is cultivating. It is this awareness that directly experiences our immediate connection with the All That Is. It is a way of knowing that is different than thinking about what we are experiencing.
When I first started practicing, some 20+ years ago, you couldn't have explained what I experience now as a result of this practice. Nothing can touch it. No concept. No word. Nothing but the direct experience. The invitation from my teachers then and now has always been, "Don't take my word for it. See for yourself." And it's so very true--or you will never get the gift that is available in each and every moment you're alive.
Trust the instruction. Trust the practice. Dive again and again back to the present moment--to this breath, this sensation, this wakefulness. Not with any expectation, but open to experience what is and when you do, the divine mystery that is always here unfolding may grace and humble you with its majestic touch.
JoAnn Saccato, MA is a mindfulness teacher, author, life coach, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She is author of Companioning the Sacred Journey and the forthcoming Mindful and Intentional Living: A Path to Peace, Clarity and Freedom