Mindfulness.

As you may have guessed from this blog, I'm a very "physical" person. Sport is very important to me and I was spending lots of time doing it for as long as I can remember.

On the other hand I was never a very spiritual person. I guess my only brief encounters with the world of spirituality were yoga (that I've been doing on and off for some years) and modern dance (that I was practicing for many years before, sadly, stopping few years ago). However, again, my primary interest in both was physical and the spiritual aspects in both were rather thin.

So if you asked me few years ago what I thought about meditation I would have probably deemed it pointless. Sitting cross legged for extended periods of time doing nothing? Well, that sounds like a huge waste of time, right?

Obviously that's a very naive point of view. On the outside there may not be happening much during meditation but that's because all the "activity" happens on the inside, in the mind. Now, I like so much to train and cultivate the body, but, given the central role it plays in our life, wouldn't it make sense to pay at least as much attention to the mind? And if one thinks of mindfulness practice as a form of training for the mind, wouldn't that be a good idea, perhaps?

Mindfulness is becoming extremely popular lately. Is it just a fad? I don't think so. Many years ago survival was a good enough goal in life (in fact in certain parts of the world it still is). However, those of us who live in the world of abundance, need other goals. In the Eastern world those goals often become: money, career, material goods (better car, bigger house, ...). Not the best choices if you ask me.

I guess mindfulness means different things to different people but if you think of it as the ability to slow down and reflect instead of blindly chasing after ill defined goals; the ability to gain perspective and not let your negative emotions hijack your mood; the ability to fully experience the here and the now, appreciate little things in life and not let minor hurdles upset you. In my understanding those are the promises of mindfulness practice and if so, I'm in.

So my first step into the world of mindfulness was the book: "Mindfulness: An eight-week plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World", that a friend recommended to me. It outlines a series of interconnected practices over a course of 8 weeks. I started reading it some time last year, restarted it a couple of times and so far only managed to make it halfway through but I'm determined to finish it one day :).

Actually the last time when I stopped it was because I discovered that there is a mindfulness class at Google. I signed up and was attending it for the last 2 weeks (it's 6 weeks in total). Last week we even had a full day mindfulness retreat in the Geen Gulch Zen Center.

So, what do I think about all this so far? I won't pretend that it never happens that I feel self-conscious and silly sitting cross-legged and doing some meditation exercise; I do (actually so far no sitting cross legged was involved, but you get the point ;). I guess the bigger question though is whether it had any impact on my life. I'm tempted to say it did and that it helps me go through the recent turmoil in my life. But I won't as I'm usually very careful with such claims and have no way of telling really what difference did all this practice make. So I guess time will tell.

I'd just like to conclude by telling all my friends who are reading this and are freaking out thinking what the hell happened with me; fear not ;). I didn't shave my head, got myself some robes and joined a Zen convent and in the foreseeable future I have no intentions of doing any of that :). However, I do hope to continue the practice for a while with an open mind and see where it gets me.

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