In the middle of the ocean in a great storm, it only takes one level-headed, calm person to bring the entire ship to safety.
This remarkable example of the infectious nature of mindfulness practice can be applied to communities of people everywhere — in the classroom, workplace, neighborhood, and even the entire world. It only takes ONE.
Perhaps that one person can start with you.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Developing a practice of mindfulness requires a look at the bigger picture. What is the motivation behind this practice? Surely it is much easier to walk around in a dream-state, unaware of the pain, hatred, devastation, and destruction of the world.
In the beginning of our journey on the path to mindfulness, the concept is alluring for selfish reasons. Sitting on the meditation cushion breathing deeply, the amateur yogi begins to feel better about him or herself.
The breath relaxes tense muscles and calms the mind. Worries flutter away like migrating butterflies. Our hearts are more open and brows less furrowed. Does this sound familiar? It should, yogi, because I am talking about you.
Cultivating clear comprehension, knowing what we are doing and why, is a profound practice that can transform your life. It helps the practitioner to understand that:
Cultivating mindfulness is much more than simply being present. We must know and understand the motivations behind our actions.
How many times have you found yourself discouraged about something, only to ask “why am I doing this?” See if you can find the motivation behind the action of your task. If you feel discouraged in your place of work, for example, what is the reason you are there?
Is it to earn money to pay for your lifestyle? Perhaps it is a stepping stone to something bigger or more meaningful in your life. Take a simpler example; the food that you eat. Do you choose to eat something because your body needs it and it is healthy for you? Are you eating out of emotional unfulfillment, boredom, or stress?
Putting mindfulness of action into practice by developing a clear understanding of why we are doing things is an important part of this principle.
Yoga and Mindfulness
Consider our yogi seated on his meditation cushion. What is his motivation for developing mindfulness? Perhaps it is selfish at first, but isn't it true that if yoga didn’t feel good, we wouldn’t practice it?
Yoga is the path to mindfulness. Whether the individual along this path is at the beginning, middle, or end, and whether they take a direct route along the highway, or an indirect route through a trail in the woods, each yogi will have his or her own divine experience.
Like a gardener who sprinkles seeds, the yogi will plant good virtues along the way only to cultivate crops of loving-kindness, compassion, and peacefulness in his wake.
As we begin to have a better awareness of ourselves, we start to see that our yoga practice is not for ourselves alone, but is ultimately for the benefit and happiness of all beings.
How does our yoga practice benefit others?
In the same light, how does pranayama or eating our food mindfully help someone else? It happens in several ways.
First, the more we understand our own mind, the better we can understand everyone else. And second, if we become more accepting, understanding, and peaceful, then the whole world is that much more so.
Picture yourself on a boat in the middle of a storm. Will you panic and yell like everyone else? Or will you allow wisdom and peace guide your actions, and lead by example amidst the turmoil?
I hope, dear yogi, that you choose the latter. Om Shanti.