Mindfulness as Mental Discipline

Sailboat

I have read many different descriptions of mindfulness. It can be described by explaining how to actually implement the concept (Mindfulness in Plain English).  Or by using an example of when one was in that kind of state and what the experience was like (I partially did that here).  Or how it changes your overall mental state (mental readiness).  But one way that I have found people describing it has made an impression on me.  Mindfulness is not just focusing on your breathing. And it is not just getting to a state of mental readiness.  Mindfulness is the act of practicing mental discipline.

You practice mindfulness by focusing on the present moment.  You pay attention to as much detailed information that you can get from your senses.  When you find your thoughts drifting to memories, future scenarios or other types of thinking, you gently bring your attention back to your senses.  Your mind will continue to drift. And you continue to steer it back to the present moment.  That is all there is to it.

I tried to identify common times in the day when I zoned out the most and attempted to be mindful during those times.  I knew that I zoned out in the shower and in the car quite often.  So, I tried to focus on exactly what my senses were telling me.  I would think about how the water felt hitting my back.  The smell of the soap.  Or the feel of the steering wheel in my hands.  The sounds of the cars driving by.  The color of the road.

And then my mind would drift off into what I had to do that day.  Or how traffic really sucked.  I would think how I needed to hurry up and get out of the shower.  I would wonder what was on the radio.  Countless thoughts would run through my head.  Then I would realize that I drifted away from the present again.  I would bring my focus back to my senses and start the process over.

Mental discipline is required to recognize when your mind is drifting, and it is required to bring your attention back to the present moment.  It really is work to keep your mind focused on the present.  But I already see the benefits.  I am gaining more trust in my thought process.  I feel like there is a place to fall back to when I see that I am lost in my thoughts.

This same discipline is found in rational thought.  And the same feelings I get from the discipline in mindfulness, I get from rational thought.  There is a system to fall back on when thinking rationally.  There is a trusting feeling that I get when I find myself logically stepping through a problem.

It is almost like I have two ideal mental states.  One is mindfulness and one is rational thought.  I talk about this duality here.  Both states can be viewed as tools. Both states can be viewed as the mind’s natural ideal state.  They coincide as equally beneficial states of mind.

Photo courtesy of jacreative 

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