Coming Up for Air

Coming up for airHow does one actually practice mindfulness?  Being in the present moment.  Your attention must be focused on exactly what is happening right now.  This means that the processing of the input from your senses takes up all your conscious thought.  Your mind is filled with what you see, hear, feel, taste and smell.

Unfortunately, I have been biased against the phrase “the present moment” for a long time.  Whenever, I heard someone talk about focusing on “the now”, I have always dismissed them.  I have been that way because the times that I have heard people talking about the present moment, they usually follow it up with new age speak concerning energy flowing through your chakra points, or something like that.

But new age mentality does not have a monopoly over the present moment.  Being aware of the information that your senses are giving you is very important.  If you slow down for a moment and dedicate a little bit of time to actually focus on your senses, you will see just how different our normal processing of sensory information is to mindful processing of the senses.  Most gurus talk of how beautiful everything in the world is and how meditation can show you that beauty. I have not gotten to that euphoric point yet, so the thing that really amazes me is the gap between typical sensory processing and mindful sensory processing.

The act of breathing is a wonderful example of how one can completely ignore his or her senses.  Air enters your body through your nose or mouth.  Your lungs expand.  They deflate.  And air exits your body through your nose or mouth.  This is not a simple process, both in terms of physiology and in terms of sensory input.  And this process happens all the time. An average person’s respiratory rate is 12 breaths per minute.  You are constantly inhaling and exhaling.  How often do you notice that you are doing it?

Can you sit down and attempt to focus on nothing but your breathing?  If you can’t, ask yourself why not.  I have found that there is a lot that can be learned, not only from the act of focusing on my breath, but on what takes me away from focusing on my breath.

Worries, daydreams, impatience, boredom, to-do lists, songs that I can’t get out of my head, scenes from movies, etc. all come up.  How can I not concentrate on something as simple and fundamental as my own breath?  Is it the onslaught of information that technology and society shoves down my throat?  I am not going to lament on what my life could be if only I could remove myself from those things.  I want to work with the normal information onslaught and still be able to focus.

Mindfulness is the response.  And the first step is to just breathe.

Photo courtesy of Lars Plougmann 

Leave a comment