On Mindfulness


My last missive was a discussion on the great learning I have accomplished while holding space in my new home for a brigade of men (only a slight exaggeration) to come through, temporarily setting up camp, while in the pursuit of advancing the mission of the Nishpatti Foundation and its various campaigns.

I believe the Bible says something like: Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. I don’t believe that I was reporting my experience from either a haughty (I always loved that word!) or a prideful place. But I do have a recollection of feeling the familiar feeling of comfort in the belief of having genuinely learned something. Silly, silly me!

I should know better than to believe that learning goes in this way: study, take a test, pass the test, confirmed expert! This must be an archival remnant from my elementary through graduate school days. More realistically, learning goes like this: practice, study, test, fail or pass, practice more, study more, test again, pass or fail, study still more, practice still more, test again, and the cycle continues. It is Samsara, the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The wheel that continuously turns as we repeat and repeat and repeat the processes grasping to our successes and fleeing from our failures.

What do we do when the cycles are staring us down and the feeling of being cornered by our very own humanness looms frighteningly over our past, present, and future? I suspect we each have a different method for coming to terms with how to break the cycle, but it seems to me that breaking the cycle is the necessary slap on the back to halt the hiccup of Samsara.

Whether the cycle is one of attracting the same ‘wrong’ personality type into our life, or to taking the same ‘wrong’ job, or repeatedly bumping our head or twisting our same ankle, it is surely an underlying lesson that we are trying to learn and master.

There really is only one way to receive the message once we recognize that the cycle even exists and that is to receive the blessing of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is something that my Swami speaks a lot about and that I guess I take for granted in myself and in others. Mindfulness is a blessing that comes with practice, but not just any kind of practice. There is a particular practice of becoming present that must precede any successful achievement of mindfulness. We must learn to be present to the moment of now. This is the only moment. And, to be absolutely dramatic, once you are present to the moment of now you will discover that there is such an incredible amount happening NOW that there is almost no reason to stray mindlessly into any other moment for entertainment.

I admit that this is a dramatization because, for most people, getting into the moment is a rare occurrence and the process of trying to get there (or shall I say here) is painful. But it need not be. It is easy to attain the benefits of being mindful by simply practicing mindfulness from time to time, that is to say, once or twice a day can do the trick. It is the practice of mindfulness meditation to which I refer.

There are a couple of other particularities to the practice of meditation, but to start with simply being mindful of the present moment is a good first step. We teach these methods. They can be learned and, once learned, they must only be practiced for short periods of time daily to provide significant benefits.

Like giving a frantic child a time out, practicing meditation and mindfulness is a time out for us adults. In just a few simple moments, we can learn to shift reality. Shift body and mind. Open heart and quiet head. Lower blood pressure and improve mood. The possibilities are truly endless.

I write this to you on the eve of the last day the current brigade of men will be camped here. I feel the satisfaction of a soldier who sees the plane that will take me home ahead on the runway, but with a strong sense of sadness knowing that it may be some time before I will see my platoon mates again. This tells me that, not only did I survive the hilarity, the chaos of numbers, the stress of conflict, and the diversity of moods and personalities, but all of this opened my heart a bit wider, my mind was expanded, and my life was enriched by the experience. This is what I can say with certainty in this moment. And this moment is all there is.

About the Author:

Madelana Ferrara is a teacher of Yoga and a student and practitioner of its related disciplines of Meditation and Ayurveda.