Paradox - Reflection and Experience
There is a paradox. We know that intellectual reflection on what we are doing, thinking and feeling is very useful. It is what enables one to choose, to be skillful in life. Yet, when we are caught up in the intellect, acting as if it were the boss, the center of everything, we lose perspective and do not fully experience the moment.
Objectively experience the full picture – body, intellect, emotions, mental models all seamlessly inter-operating.
In complex activities, whether managing a project, composing music or collaborating in a team, one doesn't perform optimally if he or she relies solely on intellectual understanding. Healthy relationships and optimal performance rely on emotional, spiritual and social intelligence as well as cognitive intelligence.
Mindful Awareness Beyond Intellect
Let's apply this understanding to mindful awareness. Mindful awareness is an experience, like the taste of sugar. It is the experience of the instant presence. Intellectual understanding, while powerfully important, is not mindful awareness. Mindful awareness is a subtle objective knowing. It has no center or edge. There is no subject that is knowing.
Maybe you have tasted this experience. Maybe when fully engaged in an activity, you found yourself effortlessly performing. Maybe it was in the AHA moment as the solution to a complex problem came to mind. Some taste it in the first moment they see a fabulous flower or painting or look into the eyes of a baby. Then, in the next moment there is the labeling, and thoughts like, “that was the most beautiful flower I have ever seen." And then, on and on into thought trains that depart from the experience and go just about anywhere, for example comparing or taking a photo.
Mindful awareness is not a miracle, it is "Nothing special." It is not a cure-all. It is a facet of experience that supports optimal living.
Brief experiences of mindful awareness occur randomly.
If these glimpses go unrecognized, it is as if they never happened. When they are recognized for what they are, they open one into a peaceful, spacious big picture perspective.
With practice, glimpses appear more regularly and for longer duration. Until then, stay mindfully aware of everything you experience - your posture, breath, thoughts, movement, interactions with others, perceptions, sensations, feelings, the way you eat or fast, and everything else.
Very gentle awareness. 5% or less of your attention.
Just enough to recognize when you are distracted, caught up in thought. When you see the mind wandering, stop. Experience the spacious, clear present moment. Carry on.
No need to reach for it or hold onto it. It is just there to be experienced at any time - with the next breath, when you remember to be present.