Mindful Being vs. Mindful Doing

Mindful meditation, or Mindful Being, is an inner process, where our attention is directed inward.
Mindful Doing is more active.  It is the doing of something, some one thing, with our full attention.

In Mindful Doing we focus our 5 senses on the one task and pay attention to each moment, to each change.

Mindful eating is a pleasurable activity.  It is eating without talking, reading, watching the television, being on the phone.  This is a time to smell the food, notice the shapes and colors, notice the thoughts about each type of food.  Perhaps noticing the mouth, watering in anticipation. 

Then, feel the fork or spoon in your hand. Notice the hand moving the utensil towards the plate or bowl, and notice how the weight of the utensil changes as you engage with the food. 

My favorite Mindful activity is doing the dishes.  I start with an empty sink, putting in the plug, and hearing the sound as it fits in place.  Then, turning on the water, listening to the splashes, first on the ceramic sink, and then splashing on the water as the sink fills. 

Noticing when I add the soap, how the sound changes, how the water changes, the shape, and color of the bubbles.

If you break a dish or drop something it is a reminder that your mind has wandered.  Again, mind wandering is normal.  Without judgment, return to the act of washing dishes.

“Before enlightenment –  Chop wood, carry water.
 After enlightenment – Chop wood, carry water.
”  Wu Li

The practice of mindfulness means watching the mind and becoming aware of how we are not present to what is happening around us. In simple terms, we can say that before I developed the true nature of my mind I could chop wood and carry water but my mind was everywhere-it was polluted with mental obstructions and worldly thoughts-it was not present. Once we begin to experience being present, we discover that thoughts get in the way of experiencing reality.  From the outside,-I still appear to chop wood and carry water but in fact, internally I am experiencing my body as it moves, the sound of the ax, the muscles I use to chop, the breath as I exercise.  Everything is different. Everything has changed. We realize that we have, often don’t see what is in front of us, but rather our thoughts about that person; the past associations, judgments and evaluations.

“Two people never meet.  But rather the thoughts, judgments and past experiences block our sight and cloud the present moment.”

“If you walk, just walk. If you sit, just sit; but whatever you do, don’t wobble.”  Zen quote

An exercise in Mindful Being.  (Read this through and then try it on your own.)

With your wrists resting on the arm of a chair, or on your knees, allow the hands to dangle free, without touching anything.  Close your eyes and ask yourself  “How do I know my hands still exist?”

What we are doing is finding the feelings within our hands, the aliveness that exists even though our hands are not touching anything or moving.  The hands are at rest, but there is an aliveness, a pulsing sensation, or fuzzy feeling, that signals that our hands are still there. 

This feeling will be your Focal Point.  When the mind wanders, and it will, over and over, just notice what you have been thinking and put your attention back on your hands, and the feeling of aliveness within.

Over and over, thousands of times, the mind wanders off to the past or to the future, thinking about something.  You won’t notice the movement, but you will notice the thought “I’m thinking about …”  At that point just put your attention back on your hands, and that feeling of aliveness.

How long do I do this? 

It’s up to you.  I recommend 10 minutes to start but if you can only do 5 minutes, fine.  Before you start, look at the time, notice when you plan to stop and then close your eyes and find the feeling of aliveness.  When you think the time is up, peek at your watch.  If there is more time, close your eyes and just continue.  The idea is to allow whatever thoughts or feelings emerge to just exist, without resisting or changing them.  Notice them and then return to your Focal Point.

How do I know if it is working? 

The test of successful meditation is simple.  Ask yourself:  “Is it easy?” “ Is it relaxing?”  Nothing more. 

An Exercise in Mindful Being

With your hand open, notice the time.  Give yourself 2 minutes to slowly move the hand from open to closed, making a fist.  Do this as slowly as you can, taking the full 2 minutes from open to closed.  As you do this notice what your 5 senses are reporting.  What colors, shapes, spots, wrinkles and shadows do you see?  Which finger moves first?  Which joint bends?  Notice the feelings of movement.  Jerky or smooth?  Do you feel any sensations in your wrist, your forearm or your shoulder? 

At the end, notice, perhaps even write down what things you noticed.  And finally, did you notice that thoughts about your day, plans for later, thoughts about earlier today, all of that fell away as you focused solely on your hand?
That is Mindful Doing.  Putting 100% attention on the doing of one thing at a time.

Readings in Mindfulness
(in my order of enjoyment)

The Power of NowEckhart Tolle
A New EarthEckhart Tolle
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself  Michael A. Singer
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday LifeJon Kabat-Zinn
Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Guide to Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday Life  Rick Fields and Peggy Taylor
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction WorkbookBob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein
Be Here NowRam Dass

Published by Jim Hussey

I am a licensed professional counselor, working in a hospital setting. I have been a meditator and teacher for 47 years, a therapist for 28 years and married for 29 years. My secret vice is golf.

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