Mindfulness: The Perspective That Changes Everything
For the first twenty or so years of my life, my life felt like a routine job. My job requirements? They consisted of achieving the highest academic grades possible as well as excelling in sports. Now, some twenty plus years later, my life is more fun, engaging, challenging and joyful than I ever imagined it could be.
But what happened? How could there be such a dramatic difference in how I see and how I experience life now, compared to, then?
Well, what happened for me was a subtle, yet key shift in my perspective. What was that shift? That shift was my discovery of what is commonly referred to as mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the distinction between our real selves – who we are – and… the database of our mind. And the database of our mind is simply a place where we’ve stored everything we’ve experienced, believed and thought.
Now mindfulness has many meanings and connotations attached to it, including mindfulness meditation. However when I speak of mindfulness, I’m referring to becoming a nonjudgmental observer of your own mind as described by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s like you’re someone else looking down from a high vantage point and zeroing in on you and how you use and interact with your mind.
In other words, you’re an observer of you, on a moment by moment basis.
So how can you practice this incredible concept of mindfulness, where you become an observer of your own mind?
The first key understanding is to know the distinction between who you really are and, the database of your mind. For you to observe anything, by definition you can’t be whatever it is you’re observing. Therefore, for you to be able to observe your own mind (your thoughts and reactions), by definition the You who is doing the observing must be a separate entity from your mind.
In other words, you are NOT your mind. You are separate from your mind.
The You or the observer, is the awareness or unique consciousness that entered the world the day you were born. When you entered the world, you began observing the doctors, your parents and your surroundings. And, along with that, you began making invisible valuations about all you were experiencing and all of that got logged away (as it still does today) in the database of your mind.
That awareness that was doing the observing is what we mean by your unique consciousness or the real You (Tolle, 1999).
Each of us has a unique consciousness that enters the world with two incredible tools at its disposal – our body and the database of our mind. While our mind’s database is relatively empty when we are first born, it quickly begins collecting tremendous amounts of information from the world around us – largely outside of our conscious awareness.
We observe how others interact with us, how they interact with each other and how things in our environment operate. From these observations, we begin forming mental models and then core beliefs about ourselves and the world, all with the goal of helping us successfully navigate the world.
Ideally, if we were grounded in the perspective of our unique consciousness (our true selves) while using our mind’s incredible database to help us manifest our full potential, we’d be living happy, fulfilled, excited lives from a very early age, and have it continue that way onwards into adulthood.
Sadly, however, what all too often happens is that as we move through life, we become self-critical, judgmental, inhibited, and the database of our mind starts filling up with unhelpful beliefs about who we are and how we are supposed to go through life.
We start losing sight of our unique consciousness. Instead, we literally become trapped by the thoughts and beliefs in our mind’s database about who we are and we suffer injury after injury to our self-esteem and self-image.
We start listening (and believing) what our database tells us about who we are, what we’re capable of and what we should strive for, as if it’s the absolute truth, the law – and, that we have no right to contradict it or change it by asking questions. And so what we do is we end up telling ourselves – ‘that’s just the way I am, that’s just my nature, I can’t help who I am’.
What we often don’t realize (and aren’t aware of) is our mind’s database programming does not reflect absolute truths – instead, it reflects the relative health, negativities or dysfunction of our families, friends, schools, society, culture and media.
From inside our mind’s database, we may be fooled into thinking that we are in charge of our lives, but really it’s our mind’s programming that dictates our thoughts and actions – and yet, we haven’t realized that it was US who has put that programming inside of us, without ever knowing it! This is how I spent the first twenty or so years of my life.
How can you realize your true potential and the abundance and joy life has to offer? You can do that once you learn to free yourself from your mind’s programming and reconnect with your unique consciousness – your true self. It’s only from the perspective of your unique consciousness that you can discover your innate purpose and true passions.
Practicing mindfulness and learning to start observing your thoughts and reactions are powerful tools for freeing yourself from your mind’s negative database. And in turn, has you reconnecting with your unique consciousness – with whom you are meant to be.
It’s this perspective that has changed my life and it can absolutely change yours in a profound and positive way as well.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are. New York, NY: Hyperion.
Tolle, E. (1999). The power of now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library.
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