William S. Eidelman, MD
Mindfulness started out as a Buddhist meditation. It is now also a psychological method of its own, growing in acceptance so much that even Anderson Cooper reported on 60 Minutes about his own positive experiences.
To be “mindful” means to be present in your own being right now. At the most basic level it means feeling your body from the inside, being aware of the breath as it goes in and out. When one is in the body like that, there is a different feeling that is hard to explain. If you just did it, you know. Now do it again, go back and feel yourself in your body. You will of course go in and out.
Usually, people are lost in their minds, thinking about the past or the future, and are not present to themselves at all! They are also not present to people and situations around them, living in “Automatic Pilot” while they are thinking about the past or future.
We get ourselves stuck in unconscious, habitual patterns, run in “Automatic Pilot,” while we’re somewhere lost in the inner space of the mind! Because we’re not paying attention to ourselves.
Even right now, if you shift your attention from just reading this, to reading this and feeling your whole body, and feeling the breath going in and out, and you do both at the same time, you can feel there is a difference in your state of mind. It is expanded from your head alone into the whole body. This is a different state of consciousness. It is an expanded state of consciousness.
Usually, when people use the term expanded state of consciousness, they are referring to something hypothetical, since they’ve been always stuck in what seems like the ordinary, normal state! Or some people will be thinking about something like the inner part of the outer five senses. But the initial most important starting point is the body. One should be present in the body. It is here where mindfulness starts.
In the past, teachers of mindfulness/meditation would recommend that you set aside 20 minutes (once or twice a day) up to an hour a day, where your activity is devoted to mindfulness/meditation. The long term goal has always been to integrate it into one’s daily life, so that it becomes your full time state. In the past, this was a luxury. Now it is a necessity.
Now, my recommendation is that you have some signal that you can easily give yourself that will remind you throughout the day to come back into your body, to feel yourself, to be present. By remembering 20 – 40 times a day to come back into yourself, into your body, into your bodymind, you can become mindful.
Right now, people are rarely if ever mindful. It takes some work, practice, and attention, but the rewards are worth it. In fact, the rewards can be miraculous! On any and every level, if you become mindful, everything will improve. Stay tuned, we’ll be continuing this conversation!