Mindfulness is an extremely important aspect in Buddhism. To be mindful is to be aware of your own mind and body. Some people think by being mindful is to be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on in the world around you, but that’s not true. Nothing around you matters, no external environment is doing anything for you, in the emptiness sense – nothing is even there. So to be mindful is to be aware and watch your own mind and body.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a truly amazing, inspirational Zen Master is known for this popular books on mindfulness like The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace Is Every Step. If you don’t own these books, you should. These are beautiful texts written in the most gracious way possible. These are books you’re going to want to read more than once, as long as you apply what you read to your own life!
Back to being mindful. Like I said, we want to be mindful of our mind and body. When we practice Anapanasati (mindfulness breathing), we’re mindful and aware of our breath; the ins and outs, short or long, heavy or calm – we watch it, know it, and learn from it. To be mindful isn’t to control what you’re doing and know that you’re doing it, no. It’s to naturally breathe, naturally walk, and naturally do everything else – all you’re doing is being aware that you’re doing it!
So when we do walking meditation, or just walking, you want to be mindful of your breath and of the steps you take. First, take about 10-20 minutes to be mindful of the breath, once it’s calm and steady, move on to the steps you take. There are two ways I like to be mindful of walking.
The first way is the easy one; just be mindful of the right and left steps. So when the right foot fully contacts the ground, be mindful “right.” When the left foot fully contacts the ground, be mindful “left.” And continue on this way. Do not lift the other foot until the foot you’re mindful of is fully contacted the ground – yes you’d be walking slow, but you’re supposed to. So once you’ve gotten the flow of it, just be mindful “Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left.” When doing walking meditation, have your eyes half closed, or somewhat closed, head looking semi-down so you’d only be seeing about 5-8 feet in front of you. Try not to look at your feet when counting, because you’ll probably tend to get distracted by them and lose count.
The second way is a little more difficult. Mostly because it really requires you to be walking slow! Not only are you counting your Right and Left steps, but you’re being mindful of “lifting (the foot), lowering (the foot), heel touching (the ground), touching (half your foot on the ground), toes touching, right (right foot fully on the ground). And do the same with the right foot and continue on this way. You do this because you want to be mindful and aware of the sensations in your body and keep your mind focused and not wandering useless thoughts.
Be mindful of everything you’re doing. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, he says to be mindful of your everyday chores like sweeping, washing dishes, and driving. To be mindful is to simply be aware that “I’m sweeping the floor. I’m sweeping the dust and dirt away,” “I’m washing my dishes. The water is warm.” In his book Peace Is Every Step, he says “I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands.”
It’s also important to be mindful of our thoughts. Listen to your thoughts before you speak, especially if those thoughts are of something of anger or hatred. Be mindful that these thoughts are arising and that you need to some watering those seeds of anger and hatred. As long as you’re mindful of your bad thoughts before you take action on them, your Karma won’t be as negatively stricken! If you’re in a situation where you know anger or hatred might occur, then you need to leave! If you can’t, simply start Anapanasati, smile, and recite a mantra in your head (The Green Tara mantra is a good mantra in situations like these).
To conclude what I’m trying to say: simply be mindful and aware of your mind and body. Be mindful of your thoughts, be mindful of everything you do, whether it’s walking, sitting, driving, standing – be mindful of your body, its movements, the way it feels, etc. Being mindful will help wandering, useless thoughts surface. Being mindful will help you focus and concentrate on your mindfulness. I can, and will in the future, go on much more about mindfulness, but I just wanted to touch the surface of it.
Smile and be well!