Performance coaches, therapists, fitness experts and nutritionists are doing it and sharing it with their clients – it’s being taught in hospitals, prisons, businesses and even finding its way into the school timetable. What is the ‘it’ I’m talking about?…
The ancient practice of ‘mindfulness’; of being ‘present’.
Many of us who’ve never even opened a spiritual book or sat on a meditation cushion are now learning to simply stop… to observe the rise and fall of our breathing… and become aware of whatever thoughts, feelings, sensations, images, sounds, tastes and smells are happening in the here and now.
And what do we discover? Whether it’s anxiety, frustration or rage; boredom, sadness or shame; happiness, bliss or total ecstasy; whether it’s thoughts idly chattering away, constructing a new ‘to do’ list or keeping themselves busy judging and criticising oneself or others, then judging the judging, criticising the criticising and spiralling off into frantic story-making; whether it’s harsh or gentle sounds, bitter or sweet flavours, pungent or fragrant smells, we start to notice that this entire kaleidoscope of experiencing is in a continual state of flux, always shifting and changing, whilst we who bear witness to it all never shift, never change, but remain constant throughout.
It’s in that recognition that a newfound sense of stillness and stability may gradually begin to emerge; which many find helpful for dealing with stress, depression and addictive behaviour, for boosting attention and concentration, for finding more clarity, creativity and focus in life.
But what if we we’re willing to take it one tiny step further? What if we were to wonder: what is the nature of this ‘me’ that is aware of all these coming and going experiences, that in itself never changes?
Curiously the bundle of thoughts, feelings and sensations that we normally imagine ourself to be is also part of the coming and going experience. When we look first-hand, like a child – before we reach into our previously held beliefs and assumptions – we cannot possibly define or even locate what it is that we really are. And in not being able to find ourSelf – where we end or even begin – can we really be separate from any of these coming and going experiences?
Our uninterpreted reality is continually proclaiming that our real nature is like the ultimate shape-shifter, contorting into dimensions of space and time, into ever fresh configurations of color, sound, sensation, smell, taste, thought and feeling, into a ‘you’ and a ‘me’, the image of these words and whatever thoughts which reflect upon them.
In that extraordinary revelation we fall in love again and again as we’re wedded to every particle of life, as we recognize that this ordinary, everyday moment is an absolute miracle in action, that our partners, friends, colleagues and clients are all, in the deepest sense, expressions of our own true Self, that we can finally fully meet each ‘other’, even in the wildest depths of despair, and so understand the real meaning of compassion.
Then mindfulness is transformed from a useful technique for finding stillness and clarity into a profound invitation to know oneself in a radically new way: not as a separate and isolated self, but as the source and substance of all that is.
About James Eaton www.JamesEaton.org
Whilst growing up James had a deep sense that something about life didn’t add up. Unsure about what exactly that something was he tried to ‘fit in’ and graduated in Maths from Oxford University. It didn’t work. He then began seeking a resolution to a lingering sense of unfulfillment by writing songs, singing and playing in bands, then as an actor, then as a school teacher, but that didn’t work either. On recognising that no matter what his outer circumstances were the feeling of longing and dissatisfaction still remained, the nature of seeking turned inward and James found himself following a variety of spiritual and therapeutic paths. Despite providing many insights along the way these too ultimately failed to satisfy. He felt drawn more and more to the question that no one seemed to be asking: “Who is doing all this?” Finally James came across the Non-Dual message with which there was an instant resonance. He met with many different teachers and seeking came to an end when the true nature of reality was clearly seen. James now holds meetings and retreats in the UK and abroad, and lives in Totnes with his partner and two sons.