Let’s talk about awareness or mindfulness, which is the main thrust of this column.
Most people go about their daily activities without mindfulness or full awareness of what they are doing, although they may think they do.
Mindfulness is not that easy to do or define. It is a spiritual or psychological faculty or state of mind. Buddhist teachings consider mindfulness of great importance in the path to enlightenment. It is the seventh element of the Buddhist noble eightfold path.
Mindfulness is attentive awareness of the reality of things, especially of the present movement.
It is an antidote to delusion, but it should be accompanied by an understanding or comprehension of what is happening. Mindfulness, if practiced correctly and consistently, eventually results in wisdom.
The modern articulation of the ancient concept of mindfulness or awareness is Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now,” although he disavows any link or reference to any spiritual, esoteric or religious beliefs.
Mindfulness meditation practice adopted from Buddhism is being used in psychology to relieve a variety of mental and even physical conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and even in restoring the function of organs impaired after a stroke. (See my column May 28, 2013)
To teach awareness or mindfulness, the ancient Tibetans had a practice of making chelas or students do a very slow walking meditation in which they are asked to be aware of every movement of their foot from one step to the next. It must be done so slowly that it should take five minutes for one foot to touch the floor.
When I first joined a seminar teaching such a practice, we couldn’t do it so the instructor allowed us to shorten each step to only one minute. It was still very hard to do since it required complete focus, attention, awareness and patience.
Can you imagine walking so slowly that it would take five minutes for your foot to land on the floor?
Not fully understanding the importance of such a practice, I quickly got out of the seminar never to return. Now I know better. As I said, most of us are not fully aware of what we are doing. We do things almost mechanically.
The ancient Masters of the East seem to be referring to the same lack of mindfulness when they say that “most people are asleep although their eyes are open.”
And, therefore, these masters took it upon themselves to wake people up from their blissful, ignorant sleep. But few stopped or bothered to listen to them.
More than 2,500 years have passed since Buddha gave those teachings and we still find the majority of humanity asleep. Five hundred years after Buddha, another great teacher, Jesus Christ, was mercilessly executed when he tried to do the same thing—to wake people up to the truth. If ever He comes back, He may not even recognize the teachings of the religion named after him because it has branched out into thousands of different sects, each of which claims to be his true teachings.
Man is supposed to be the only creature on earth who is capable of being self-aware or self-conscious. All the rest only move by instinct.
But given the state of humanity now, it seems we are still far from achieving mindfulness or self-awareness.
Could Jesus Christ be referring to mindfulness when he said that some people “have eyes but cannot see, and have ears but cannot hear; neither do they understand?”
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