How to be mindfully present, with awareness

How to be mindfully present, with awareness

Have you ever been hit with the realisation that, though you were carrying on an activity like eating or walking, it was actually being done mechanically? In this edition of his iSpirituality column, the Founder of the world-renowned Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur (SRMD) spiritual organisation elucidates how the simple practice of awareness can bring about a revolution in your life.

People do everything in a state of slumber. They transact business, perform daily chores, make friends, and even make enemies, all in a state of slumber! They live in this state all day long. They even practice religion in ignorance. They turn the beads of the rosary, they worship in temples, they practice vows, but mechanically. Every action is carried out in a state of stupor! But dharma cannot be practiced in such a state of unawareness; only adharma can be practiced in unawareness. Thus in the name of dharma, it is adharma that prevails.

Once you realise that you are in a state of unawareness, the next step is to find out how to awaken from this sleep, this unawareness.

Religion – an Awakening

What do you say if someone asks, “How do I learn swimming?” “Just start swimming,” you advise him. He replies, “I don’t even know how to swim. How do I start? What do I do to start? I will not get into the water until I have learnt swimming.” 

What he says seems quite logical, but it isn’t true. He needs to be explained that swimming cannot be learnt without stepping into the water. To him this argument may appear illogical, but it is true to experience. He has to get into the water and the first time he does, it is without knowing how to swim. Just enter water that is shallow enough not to drown you, and yet deep enough to allow you to swim. You will have to start somewhere, so why not start from here!

To get into shallow water means to start practicing awareness in small day-to-day activities. For instance, walking on the road. Most people walk with unawareness. If you stand aside and observe people walking, you will spot many of them talking to themselves, some waving their hands about, some talking to people who are not physically with them. All these people are in a state of slumber. You will be surprised at how so many people can walk in sleep! For them, walking is merely a habit carried out without any awareness. When somebody honks, they get startled and step aside. For a moment they may wake up and then go back to walking mechanically.


How to be mindfully present, with awareness
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Like a Machine

Do you know that you do not reach home consciously? Your feet move towards your home like a machine. You see the door shut and so you ring the doorbell. You do not need to be aware in doing any of these acts because they can all be done in slumber, out of sheer habit. While actions happen mechanically, within, you continue to live without awareness.
The mind does not like to learn anything new because to do so the mind has to readjust itself. This is why one prefers habits. Dealing with anything new is met with immediate opposition, because one would have to abandon the ‘comfort’ of unawareness. Even religion is practiced without awareness.

A ‘gentleman’, when he smokes, brings a cigarette to his lips, lights it, puffs at it, and throws it away. No one will say that he is asleep, for if it were so, the cigarette would have burnt his fingers. Nevertheless, he is asleep! Before his fingers get burnt, he does wake up slightly to throw away the cigarette, but soon returns to his slumber.

Dharma means awareness, progression, an ability to move ahead while adharma is unawareness and stagnation. To do anything out of habit therefore is not dharma. Habit is like a pond, while dharma is like a river that flows towards the ocean of Consciousness. A religious person is therefore progressive.


How to be mindfully present, with awareness
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Be Totally Present

Start by becoming aware in the small acts in which you do not need to involve yourself too much. For instance, walking on the road, eating, dressing up, etc. To become aware of intense emotions like anger, you will need to delve deeper, whereas all these acts are superficial. Therefore, you will find it easier to be aware of them. You will be surprised to see the results of performing simple acts like dressing up and wearing shoes with awareness. It will be an unprecedented refreshing experience every time.
Whatever you do, do not do it mechanically, do it with awareness. For instance, when you are walking on the road, your body is walking and your mind is wandering elsewhere. The day your mind is where your body is, awareness of the Self will begin. When the mind and the body are together, at the same place, at the same time, you will understand that you are beyond the body and the mind, and you will become aware of ‘That’ essence which is the observer of both.

After beginning with developing awareness in small acts, bring awareness towards emotions like anger and hatred. Try to be angry consciously, with complete awareness and you will find that to be an extremely difficult task. The matter is slightly profound but try it out. Someday, try to act as if you are angry, then you will easily be able to keep your awareness in it. Decide that you want to get very angry at a particular person, say your wife, even though there is no apparent reason to do so. You only want to act as if you are angry, so you will easily be able to keep your awareness. You will be able to ‘see’ your act of anger.


How to be mindfully present, with awareness
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On one hand, the anger will continue, and on the other, you will be able to witness that anger. And if you are able to ‘see’ this acting, with awareness, the next time anger arises, it will automatically turn into acting! If you are able to enact anger even once, you will never be able to actually get angry. In the name of anger, you will only be acting. Your internal bond with anger will just snap.

Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshji, an enlightened master and an ardent devotee of Shrimad Rajchandraji, is the founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharampur (SRMD) – a spiritual organisation with 206 centres across six continents advancing the path of Lord Mahavir. In June 2024, he will be in the UK for a series of life-transforming discourses.

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