This is the latest installation of a 27-part series, featuring my book, Chasing Unicorns. To read the previous installation, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next post in this series, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. To read the entire book at once, tap the book cover. Thanks for reading!
RECAP: Yesterday, we mindfully covered the subject of informal mindfulness. We learned that we can be mindful while going about routine, everyday tasks. But for the more important, critical tasks that require a high degree of concentration, we have to be less mindful in order to get the job done. When you practice informal mindfulness, you’ll often catch yourself going a long time, forgetting to be mindful. When this happens, returning to mindfulness is important, as it builds a self-discipline and devotion to the practice that eventually makes the practice a habit you can’t quit.
On the Path of Unicorns, Part 5
Gurus, meditation masters, and other experts often provide instructions for how to be mindful. These instructions can be useful, but always take them with a grain of salt. Ultimately, you must find your own way. It’s up to you to determine the best way to be mindful.
A common instruction is to only do one thing at a time. Well in the real world, that’s easier said than done. Life places many demands upon us, and sometimes we can’t avoid engaging in more than one thing at a time.
Suppose you’re frying a hamburger when the phone rings. And it’s an important call. Then, while you’re jabbering on the phone while flipping your burger, your kid walks through the front door with a stray dog she wants to keep. So now you have to scowl, while pointing to the door, while addressing an important question raised by the important person on the phone, while your hamburger burns on the stove.
Good luck being mindful during all that.
I like this instruction though, and I do try to limit myself to one thing at a time, whenever possible. This has a calming effect on my temperamental demeanor. It also forces me to simplify my life. And it makes mindfulness easier. But it isn’t always possible, or advisable. One must be flexible about rules and instructions, if one is to survive in this complicated world.
Another common instruction is to repeat over and over in your mind, what you’re doing in any given moment. For instance, if you’re walking, repeat to yourself, “walking, walking, walking.” If you’re chewing food, repeat to yourself, “chewing, chewing, chewing.” And so forth.
Be warned that if you do this with too much focus, you’re likely to trip over your own shoes, or choke to death. You must adjust your mindfulness to the situation.
I find this instruction useful at times, when my mind is scattered and I’m having a very hard time being mindful. But I don’t employ it often. Someone new to mindfulness might benefit from using it more frequently, though.
Another very common instruction is to watch your breath. That’s because we always have breath while we are, uh, still breathing. So it’s always there to watch. And it’s neutral. There’s no politically correct way to breathe or not breathe. Therefore, watching one’s breath is not likely to excite one’s passions.
It’s a good instruction, in my view. But be careful about taking it too far. Watching one’s breath is not the be-all and end-all to mindfulness.
And besides, what’s wrong with exciting one’s passions? Nothing at all. If you do this mindfully, you may gain some insights into just why your passions have become excited. And this will help you to understand a little more about yourself.
So be mindful of other things also, besides your breath. Be mindful when a stone fox or handsome hunk walks past you. Admire the view, and watch how it affects your impulses. Be mindful when handed a large sum of money, so you can be aware of all the avarice that consumes your heart like fire.
And be mindful while eating something delicious, like a chocolate bar. Don’t waste all that good taste by following your breath. No, follow the flavor, as it sends your mouth to heaven and engorges your stomach.
[I wrote that last paragraph while feeling hungry, so maybe it’s time for a snack break. Don’t forget to brush your teeth, and be sure to show up tomorrow, where you’ll learn the main benefit of mindfulness.]