By Suzanne Schecker
I can't think of a clearer and more beautifully stated description of mindfulness than this quote by Eckhart Tolle:
Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.
Mindfulness is a word that has crept into our daily conversation and we've come to use it in the sense that "being mindful" simply means, "paying close attention to" and it is a nice expression. There is however, a much deeper and profound meaning to the practice of mindfulness that can be the foundation for healing and put us firmly on a path of awakening.
I use mindfulness as the basic principal for my work as a psychotherapist and teach clients to develop a tool that will serve them the rest of their lives and equip them to become their own therapists. Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice which helps us cultivate an appreciation for each moment we are alive. By focusing our awareness on the breath we can learn to be present in our bodies and witness the thoughts, sensations and emotions that move through us. This does not require us to be Buddhists as all religions and spiritual practices teach some form of meditation, contemplation, centering prayer, or silent practice, to help us connect with the deeper source of our being. Mindfulness can also be practiced as a relaxation technique, requiring no belief system at all.
In psychosynthesis, a transpersonal psychology created by Roberto Assagioli, we are taught that, "I have a body but I am not my body; I have feelings but I am not my emotions; I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts. I am more than my body, my thoughts and emotions, I am a source of pure consciousness." Indeed as we develop what I refer to as the "witness" or the "watcher" we come to ask, "if we can observe our bodies, our emotions and our thoughts, who is it that is doing the observing?"
In mindfulness-based psychotherapy we begin by creating a place of witnessing, curiosity, spaciousness, non-judgement and inner stillness and observe what needs attention in our lives from there.
We have all heard the saying that "you can't fix a problem on the same level it was created" or received a solution, seemingly out of the blue, when we finally gave up trying to fix a problem with our mind.
We may still need to leave a relationship that isn't working, find a new job or cope with an unexpected illness, but we will have access to a far larger picture than we would if we were trapped in our thoughts or filtering the experience through a prism of old hurt. With practice and an attitude of self compassion we begin to notice how recurring, un-integrated thoughts and old wounds can cause us to create the same painful, self-defeating experiences over and over again.
At some point in our journey we realize that other people can inspire and support us, but ultimately, the answers and guidance we are looking for have to come from within our own heart; our own inner knowing and connection with the universal whole. We realize that the thoughts, emotions and body sensations we observe are just passing through, that nothing is solid state or permanent and it makes little sense to identify our being with transitory experience.
What we have that is real and lasting is this gift of pure awareness and the present moment. Best to develop that....