As we begin to be more mindful in our lives and shift away from living mindlessly in an auto-pilot manner, we need to acknowledge the chasm that exists between these two states of being. We usually tend to categorize things into just two buckets – whether they be good/bad, right/wrong, rich/poor, kind/rude, and so on. So here again, we tend to create two buckets—Mindless and Mindful.
Unfortunately, the chasm in between the states of operating in a mindless manner and being more present and operating in a mindful manner is a big one. In my opinion, this is a state where we are consumed in thought and our minds. I refer to this state as MindRapt. I struggled many months trying to describe this state of awareness and finally labelled it Semi-Aware in my book Beyond the PIG and the APE: Realizing Success and true Happiness. Finally, I came across this word rapt, which seemed so appropriate for what I was trying to communicate. The word for those who would like to know more, means several things including—engrossed, absorbed, fascinated, blissful, captivated, engaged, immersed, oblivious, consumed, lost, and more. So, it seemed like a good neutral word that could be used in both positive and negative contexts.
The MindRapt state is the one many of us tend to live most of our lives; incessantly absorbed in thoughts about the future or our past. We are almost never where we are. We are constantly worrying about the future, whether it be ours or our children’s. If not the future, we regurgitate the past and ruminate on it over and over. Doing so, we completely miss out on the present, the only real moment there is. As our world moves faster and we try to keep up with it, we even trade our rest that we so badly need for thinking.
At a meditation workshop that I attended several years ago, the instructor asked the group to share what they thought meditation was all about. The answers that came back ranged from, “It’s a technique to control the mind to it’s a method to stop thinking.” After listening to our descriptions, he posed this question and quickly got our attention. How does your body get rest? Everyone said sleep. He then asked, “How does your mind get rest?” He then explained that sleep does not always help the mind rest. Only deep sleep does, while REM sleep does not. How many of us have experienced a long night of sleep only to wake up completely exhausted. Ever considered how that happened?
While a lot of importance is given to thinking, it can also ruin our present, if we are not vigilant. While we may never be able to shut down or control our thoughts, we definitely have the power to gentle set them aside. Identifying ourselves with our thoughts is a source of a lot of misery.
So, how can we shift from the MindRapt state into the state of being MindFul?
One way that has worked well for me is to see thoughts as just thoughts, and that they are not me. This helps me to avoid getting hijacked by my ego. Another way is to distinguish between the voices of our heart and our mind. This level of presence can also help us discern when is it appropriate to listen to one over the other. It is perfectly fine to use the product of our thinking to solve practical problems that are present in front of you, while it may be futile to attempt solving imaginary problems using pure logic and thinking. Another simple way to create more MindFulness in your life is by following any regular contemplative or reflective practice that works for you.
Peace and be well,
P.S. You can find a lot of great resources at www.mindful.org