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Mindfulness Decoded: Embracing the Present

Mindfulness is a practice that dates back to ancient Buddhism, but it has great relevance in our modern lives. This relevance has nothing to do with becoming a Buddhist but everything to do with living in harmony with oneself and the world around us. Practising mindfulness involves examining who we are, questioning our view of the world and our place in it, and cultivating an appreciation for each moment we are alive. Most importantly, it helps us to stay in touch with ourselves and the world around us.

According to Buddhist beliefs, our everyday state of consciousness is constrained and limited, resembling an extended dream more so than genuine wakefulness. Through meditation, we can break free from this state of automaticity and unconsciousness, allowing us to live our lives with full access to our conscious and unconscious potential. For thousands of years, sages, Zen masters, and yogis have explored this realm systematically. In the process, they have learned something which may now be profoundly beneficial in the West to counterbalance our cultural orientation toward controlling and subduing nature rather than honouring that we are an intimate part of it.

Their collective experience suggests that we can live with more satisfaction, harmony, and wisdom by looking inward and observing ourselves carefully and systematically. This perspective provides a view of the world that complements the predominantly reductionist and materialistic one currently dominant in Western thought and institutions.

Mindfulness is considered to be the core of Buddhist meditation. At its core, mindfulness is a simple concept that gains power through its practice and application. Mindfulness involves paying attention in a specific way: with intention, in the present moment, and without judgment. This attention cultivates greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of the reality of the present moment. It reminds us that our lives unfold only in moments. If we fail to be fully present in many of those moments, we may overlook the most valuable aspects of our lives and miss out on opportunities for growth and transformation.

A diminished awareness of the present moment inevitably creates other problems through our unconscious and automatic actions and behaviours, often driven by deep-seated fears and insecurities. These problems tend to build over time if they are not attended to and can eventually leave us feeling stuck and out of touch. Over time, we may lose confidence in our ability to redirect our energies in ways that would lead to greater satisfaction and happiness, perhaps even to greater health.

Mindfulness is a straightforward yet powerful approach that can help us overcome obstacles and reconnect with our inner wisdom and energy. It empowers us to take responsibility for our lives, including our relationships with family, work, the world, and ourselves. Ultimately, mindfulness allows us to enhance the quality of our lives by cultivating a deeper appreciation and understanding of our inner selves.

The key to this path is an appreciation for the present moment and cultivating an intimate relationship with it through continually attending to it with care and discernment. It is the direct opposite of taking life for granted.

The habit of ignoring our present moments in favour of others yet to come leads directly to a pervasive lack of awareness of the web of life in which we are embedded. This includes a need for more awareness and understanding of our mind and how it influences our perceptions and our actions. It severely limits our perspective on what it means to be a person and how we are connected to each other and the world around us. Religion has traditionally been the domain of such fundamental inquiries within a spiritual framework. Still, mindfulness has little to do with religion, except in the most fundamental meaning of the word, as an attempt to appreciate the profound mystery of being alive and to acknowledge being vitally connected to all that exists.

Our ability to explore new opportunities expands when we dedicate ourselves to attentively observing our surroundings without being influenced by our personal preferences, opinions, biases, and expectations. By liberating ourselves from the constraints of unconsciousness, we can discover novel insights and perspectives previously hidden from our view.

Mindfulness is the art of conscious living. You don't need to be a Buddhist or a yogi to practice mindfulness. If you have knowledge about Buddhism, you will understand that the most crucial point is to be true to yourself and not to try to become someone you are not. Buddhism is about connecting with your deepest self and letting it flow naturally. It is about awakening and perceiving things as they truly are.

So, mindfulness will not conflict with any religious or scientific beliefs or traditions, nor is it trying to sell you anything, especially not a new belief system or ideology. It is a practical way to be more in touch with the fullness of your being through a systematic process of self-observation, self-inquiry, and mindful action. There is nothing cold, analytical, or unfeeling about it. The overall tenor of mindfulness practice is gentle, appreciative, and nurturing. Another way to think of it would be "heartful presence".

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