The word ‘mindfulness’ is getting more popular each day. I even heard rumours that companies send their employers to these ‘life improving’ workshops, probably to handle the stress levels of modern office environments. This trend is combined with the rise of yoga in the last twenty to thirty years in the west. I have seen it with my own eyes in India. Groups of western tourists looking for the best yoga teacher training and visiting the many ashrams with white-bearded men that call themselves ‘guru’.
Let me share two sides of this story, starting with a general opinion regarding these two practises, yoga and meditation. I think it is fair to say that yoga is much more widely accepted than mindfulness and meditation. This has largely to do with how it is presented. You only have to look at a few yoga schools to recognise it is largely targeted to women that want to regain a fit and flexible body. Clever western marketing tricks. Meditation on the other hand is more difficult to sell. It still has an image of being a bit too alternative. The common argument is to ‘use’ it to gain happiness and reduce stress in your daily life.
In my opinion all of these practises have nothing to do with the actual physical world. This is the typical objective way the west looks at things without looking deeper into the spiritual meaning. In my opinion all of these practises are meant to increase your concentration and awareness on what is around you. The ‘goal’ of yoga is to prepare your mind for deep meditation. Every posture, if practises with full attention, brings you back to yourself, to your body. Every movement is an opportunity to be present and notice your thoughts shifting away. It is feeling the energy around you and aligning it with the energy in your body. This alignment creates a strong concentration at which the meditation can naturally flow out of. This is the practise of concentrating on your breathing, mantra, body, thoughts or all of them. The idea is not to have no thoughts at all. The art is in training your focus and concentration to be aware of your ever shifting thoughts. The result is being more in the present moment which has its wide range of advantages mentioned before.
If you get stuck at the first level, thinking it is just to reduce stress or to gain a fit body, you will miss out on the most important aspect of these practises. Only with awareness and concentration things can be achieved. Think about this for a while.
Awareness creates concentration. When you are concentrated on your task you can achieve it with excellence. At least this is the case for me. High productivity is linked with being in a ‘flow state of mind’, which is nothing more than being really concentrated. As I’m typing this post I reduce my distractions to gain concentration and try to be as focused as possible. This doesn’t always work as people try to chat with me in the hostel and then I got distracted again by messages on my phone. It is oke, I’m also a student on this journey. Learning as I experience this travel. After a while I become aware of my distraction and return to writing this post. Again, it is about training your awareness to be even quicker to realise you have shifted from the work in front of you to something else.
I recently became more aware that you can train awareness everywhere, instead of only at your meditation and yoga practise. Isn’t this a wonderful discovery! The remaining 15 hours of your day is all a spiritual practise if you want it to be that way. One of the things that Dandapani mentioned in his many interviews by answering the question about 10 minutes meditation in the morning and if this will help in life, is his comparison with healthy eating. If you would eat an apple each morning but your lunch and dinner consist of all burgers and fries, you can imagine it wouldn’t really help increasing your health, would it? Similarly with your meditation practise. If you sit 10 minutes each day but the remaining 16 hours and 50 minutes are utter chaos, it will not help much right ;).
There are many moments when you can practise your awareness. Think about your morning shower, just be fully present on how it feels to have warm water flowing over your body. Maybe doing the dishes, to be 100% concentrated in making something clean again. Walking to your car or to work, feel every step you take, smell the air around you, be present. At work, fully concentrate on one single task. You will realise that world is utterly beautiful to be in 😉