Mindfulness: The Art of Living Well

December 5th, 2011 by Michael Tabor

I have been a student of eastern philosophy for more than three decades and I am delighted to see that the practice of Mindfulness is very much in vogue today. One doesn’t even have to concern oneself with the historicity of Mindfulness nor even be remotely interested in Buddhism out of which this very simple, though at the same time very difficult and yet prodigiously effective practice sprung. As a matter of fact many psychiatrists and psychologists have recommended Mindfulness to their patients as a way of reducing stress, anxiety, and dealing with depression.
Many people have stated that Mindfulness has dramatically changed his or her life for the better; whether it is practiced by someone who suffers from some anxiety and mild depression to very serious psychiatric afflictions such as paranoid schizophrenia. (Last week The New York Times profiled a man who was diagnosed with having schizophrenia but was able to cope and function as a productive solid citizen, he is currently employed full time as a computer programmer, with the aid of medication and the daily practice of mindfulness.)
So what is Mindfulness? Is this something for you? Can you incorporate this sort of practice into your life and busy schedule? The answer to all three of these questions is a resounding yes. Mindfulness in a sense is a form of mediation, one doesn’t have to set aside a half – hour or more and sit in the lotus position counting one’s breath. Mindfulness is actually a way of life and a new way of looking at the world. Ideally, a person ought to be mindful every waking moment. The best definition for mindfulness is simply (it’s actually very hard) bringing your attention to the present and paying careful attention purposely and in a particular way to the present moment; the particular way is to be nonjudgmental and to except what is true and real without any pre-conceived notions or delusions. This is the reason a Zen Buddhist very often refers to this “state of mind” as Beginner’s mind or experiencing life as if for the very first time. One can be an eighty-year-old man with a lifetime of experiences and memories and still live almost child-like in terms of being curious, open, and accepting what you perceive to be the absolute truth – life is exactly what it appears to be, nothing less and nothing more.
Although Buddhism has been around for 2500 years, the concept and idea of cherry – picking, so to speak , the utilitarian down-to-earth nuts and bolts aspects of how to live a good life without adhering to and embracing the philosophy and religion of Buddhism, was put forth by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Minfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill. This was a hugely successful and clearly effective way of maintaining good health physically, emotionally, psychologically, and even spiritually combining western medicine and the eternal truths from the East (from the East but they’re truths that are eternal and universal) about the human condition.
So tomorrow morning when you have your morning cup of coffee, experiment with mindfulness. Drinking coffee or tea is a good way of beginning your Mindfulness training. There are actually scores of books written about Zen and not only drinking tea but also the preparation involved which is sort of a ritual for many Easterners. (Now Westerners too, thanks to the proliferation of Zen and Mindfulness). Say to yourself, “This is the beginning of a new and wonderful day; this particular day has never happened before and never will happen again. Be mindful of this and be grateful. Smell the aroma of the coffee before taking your first sip, feel the porcelain touch your lips, take note of the weight of the cup, let all of your senses open up, and come to life. Nothing else matters at this particular moment and time but you and your cup of coffee. Be at peace and be totally present. If a thought, worry or concern crops up do not dismiss it, simply acknowledge it, accept it and gently bring yourself back to drinking your coffee or tea. Thoughts, feelings, awareness of your surroundings is all normal, the key is to be in the present and greet each feeling and sensation with curiosity, openness, total acceptance and feel the connection and relationship you have with your cup of coffee and ultimately with everything that exists and is in the universes. Yes, life is good and for these few minutes, there is nothing but this. You’re as close to the truth as the Dali Lama is as he meditates to greet the morning. “
So WhaDaYaThink ? What Do You Think ? This seems like a very simple exercise in Mindfulness but I can assure you, invariably a multitude of unwanted thoughts will permeate you being – just let them come and go, eventually you will be the master of your thoughts and you will be more peaceful, more at rest and yet more alive than ever. Peace on Earth.

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2 Responses to “Mindfulness: The Art of Living Well”

  1. Sal Paradise Says:

    Beautifully written piece, Mike. Having been ‘too busy’ and ‘preoccupied’ for the past month or so to visit, it was the perfect piece to remind me why your site is so essential. It also prompted me to dig out my worn edition of Suzuki’s masterpiece! I consider it a dear old friend, as I do you.

  2. Michael Tabor Says:

    Thank you so much ! Zen and Eastern philosophy is a way of life for me and I can’t imagine going through life without it.

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