During a recent mindfulness retreat I attended on a lovely Isle on the West Coast of Scotland, we were invited to practice mindfulness outdoors, facing the open sea.
If you had the chance to sit like this and start observing, what would you notice? Would the magnificent scenery take your breath away? Would you be thinking about how fortunate you were to be resting under the big blue sky? Would you be feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the wonders of nature?
The picture above makes it look as though we were just chilling to the beautiful sights, but all of us were in actual fact working really hard.
As we sat on the grassy patch, we took the opportunity to observe not just what was around us, but also what was going on in the mind.
We felt the cold wind brush against our face, and noticed a thought arising: This experience would be perfect if the wind wasn't so strong. The warm sun fades away for a few moments, and we noticed another thought arising: Warmth! Please stay, don't go away now... Preference was here.
We heard the buzzing sounds of bees hovering above our heads, and noticed yet another thought arising: Could these nature's biggest helpers possibly sting us? Fear was here.
We saw a young goat trotting past with an obvious limp, and the thought arose: Poor little kid is hurt - I wish I could do something to help it. Sympathy, and the desire to do something to help, were here.
The loud chattering voices of other guests on the island reached our ears, seemingly disrupting our peace; we thought: Can't they see we are meditating here? Some people really lack awareness. Judgment was here.
We began to feel an ache in our body from sitting still for an extended period time; we thought: Oh no, here comes the pain again. Why now of all times? Why can't ever I sit comfortably? Self-appraisal was here.
In a span of thirty minutes, we observed countless fleeting thoughts arising in the mind, out of nowhere, and out of our control. We observed how thoughts were magnified when we engaged with them, but disappeared when we chose to let them be. We observed how we don't simply see or sense things the way they are, but have the tendency to want to interpret them, change them, or fix them. We have preferences - clinging on to things that we like, and pushing away things we don't like.
Such mindfulness practices help us understand the nature of the mind, and the habitual patterns that come along with it. We begin to see how these habitual patterns dominate our daily lives. With such awareness comes insight, and the ability to navigate life with more skillful and helpful responses.
If you're interested in mindfulness training, do check out our 8-Week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program here.
About The Author
MiMo founder Erin Lee is a Mindfulness Coach and MBSR Teacher at Mindful Moments, and advocate of mindfulness as the way of life. She conducts the classic 8-Week MBSR Program, as well as the 8-Week MBSR Workplace Program.
Are you a mindfulness practitioner and have meaningful experiences or thoughts about mindfulness that you'd like to share? You can contribute an article on the MiMo blog! Please contact Erin to find out more.