The seventh step on the Eightfold Path is Right Mindfulness. Right Mindfulness is about being aware of the world around you and focusing on the present. For most of us this is very difficult to do, as we are always obsessing over what happened yesterday or what we need to do tomorrow.
Through Right Mindfulness we are looking to create a greater awareness of everything around us, not hiding from it, but fully absorbing it. We are seeking to understand our true nature by being fully aware. Right Mindfulness then also implies focus and concentration. Maybe you have found this through playing an instrument, writing, or playing sports. This was a time when you were totally focused on one thing, in the zone if you will. The question for us is are there ways we can cultivate Right Mindfulness? Let me give you a few examples of simple ways that at least might set the stage for it:
- When you go to a meeting leave your phone at your desk.
- When you are talking with someone, stop and listen to them instead of formulating what you want to say next.
- If you are reading at home turn off the television.
- Turn your phone to silent mode, and stop looking at it every 5 minutes.
- Turn off email notifications.
- Go take a walk and use your eyes and ears.
- Stop worrying about the future, it will soon be here, and worrying is pointless.
- Seek out a hobby or activity that requires concentration as this will help you focus on the present.
If you like to worry about the future, remember there is no better preparation for the future than to be completely focused on the present. Great things are accomplished now, not yesterday, or tomorrow.
Right Mindfulness can lead to an uncluttered mind and this sets the stage for the ability to focus on the present. In my next post I will write about Right Concentration.
I started this practice of writing what I am grateful for everyday some time ago . This sounded like a good idea, except that I was repeating myself writing things like:
- grateful for my family
- grateful for my work
- grateful for all the opportunities
- grateful for my home
- grateful for my health
Maybe I’m a bit slow, but it occurred to me that I was writing about being grateful for macro level things in my life, and missing the little things in life. It all seemed a bit forced, and it appeared I really wasn’t grateful for anything I was just writing it down because it seemed like a good idea. You know everyone tells you that if you can express how grateful you are you will be happier and more content. It is also true that life is not so much made up of big events and accomplishments as it is small things that happen everyday that often go unnoticed or unappreciated. There is a quote I like that makes this point.
If you take this philosophy and start applying it to your grateful journal, you begin to look at things with more of a mindful approach, paying attention to those little events that make up your day. Now instead of repeating those macro level themes or conditions in your life, you now begin to record those little experiences. Here are a few examples that help make my point:
- Grateful for the person at the cafe where I was buying some breakfast items who just gave me a banana, showing her appreciation for my patronage.
- Grateful for the rain that poured last night, just after I had put fertilizer on the lawn.
- Grateful for spending last Sunday morning with a three month old baby, walking and singing songs to him.
- Grateful for how attractive my wife is as she walked by me this morning with her workout clothes on.
- Grateful for my manager at work who always greets me with a smile, and has something nice to say.
See the difference? These are little things, but they are positive events that compose your day and should be things that you can appreciate. These little things bring you closer to the world you live in, and as you begin to notice these things you are beginning to live in the moment, where real appreciation resides.
Hopefully you can begin to notice these little things, the people, and events for your own grateful journal. If you can’t find time to write them down at least notice that they are occurring and be grateful.