Updated: Apr 9, 2020
I believe there are two keys to unlocking mindfulness. Here we shall focus on what is perhaps the best understood: the concept of being truly present. Development of a present mindset is paramount to living life in reality, away from day dreams tainted by re-enactments of past events or of heroic or fearful stories of the future. Being present simplifies all that life can throw at us, because to be with the present is to draw boundaries around all the overwhelming possibilities of life. Mastery of presence is an ongoing, lifelong journey, but the decision to attend to the present is a vital step onto the path.
Presence can be developed in a multitude of ways. Many disciplines call on ancient meditation techniques to develop aptitude for being present/mindful. Some, such as the schools of Zen, ask that you ‘simply’ follow the breath- perhaps the most intensely difficult simple instruction ever considered. The true nature of consciousness is beyond all understanding.
To truly experience the nature of consciousness, watching the breath is the weapon of choice for many on their spiritual path. As we slowly, systematically, silently watch our breathing (in, pause, out, pause, in, pause, out) it rarely takes more than a few seconds for a thought to propagate in our mind. These are sometimes named ‘mind weeds’. Noticing that the thought exists and coming back to the sensation of breathing embodies the essence of being present. And this is the very marrow of being.
The benefits of developing deep abilities in mindfulness are impossible to overstate. The nature of the wild-self is to delve into the truth of the wilderness that surround us and dwells inside of us. The exploration of this practice is a core requisite for the nurturing of the self-as-nature. To re-wilding the soul.
Meditation aims to help one develop in the art of the present mind. It is perhaps best to think of meditation as the fertiliser of mindfulness, rather than mindfulness itself. It will help consciousness grow, nourish it and aid it to develop deep, strong roots and a healthy embodied existence. To live thus is to truly live. Whether you consider yourself on a spiritual path or you are someone who thinks the very word ‘spirituality’ is embarrassing; the following exercise aims to create an experience of presence, free of all beliefs and dogmas.
The Mindful Mouthful goes thus; select something edible (be it an apple, some beef jerky, some water or a foraged berry) and sit with it. Really sit with it. Stare at it, study it in every infinitesimal detail, how it looks, its shape, weight, texture, smell; even its sound. Consider carefully what it is: where did it grow, and how? What did it grow on? How has it come to be with you now? Remember to be fully present. If your thoughts wonder off topic, or you recognise that you feel silly, do not judge the thought, just come back to the object of focus, to this exact moment. For your personal consciousness, no other reality currently exists. View the arising of all thoughts and sensations from a position of total equanimity. Place no labels of judgements on what you observe. When you feel ready, take a bite (or sip). Experience it like you have never experienced anything before. Try to notice every single sensation in your body in this very moment. Try to glimpse every flavour, the changes of texture, the sensations in your mouth.
This is a single mindful mouthful. It takes severe effort and unfathomable concentration. It is the essence of presence. Take a mental note of the experience. Try to call on this way of being regularly- when you walk, run, converse, embrace, watch a film, eat, cry, experience anger or frustration. The present moment is all that there ever is. Do not seek. Just be.