knowing, growing, becoming
Popular Eastern teachings seem more yin or passive in their approach to life. They often teach you to stop resisting your experience. Resistance is a mind body spirit phenomena. Physically it can show up as tension, emotionally it can be defensiveness, mentally it is often rigidity or judgmental-ness, spiritually it could be a level of refusal. We've all heard the phrases " go with the flow"and "let it be" to describe this philosophy. Since we are a culture addicted to constant doing, this is sage advice. Yet sometimes, the other side of the art of living gets lost in the process; the yang or active side. The balanced Yang approach involves having clear intention and purpose without being obsessed, discerning what is relevant and appropriate for you, being empowered by your choices while understanding they have an effect on others and actively developing harmonious relationships (to name a few). This creative and co-creative aspect may seem missing from Eastern teachings if you only read books about them. The actual lives of adepts are often extremely creative and fully engaged.
Mindfulness can sound like a lot of work. It's common definition includes the steady application of awareness in a non-judgmental way with attention to detail and increased effectiveness as an outcome. Mindfulness can be understood from at least three different perspectives. Borrowing from the work of Dr. Les Fehmi, we can discern that most mindfulness techniques fall under the category of what he terms "narrow focus" or focus on an object of attention. This can be the breath, movement, a mantra, a feeling, thought or a physical object like food. Dr. Fehmi has identified another category which he calls "diffused attention". Diffused attention is awareness of the background field of awareness. The best football players are aware of the field and acutely sense what is occurring in it but they are also focused on their task. This is the third category; narrow focus while maintaining diffused awareness. You can get a taste of this by reading these words while becoming aware of the space between them, between you and the screen and all around you simultaneously. Dr. Fehmi terms this attentional state "open focus". Although this takes training to do well, (hopefully) you do it every time you drive a vehicle.
Being in the moment and mindfulness are often attributed to eastern teachings and may seem hard to implement in fast paced society....one more thing you have to do. There is another way that can liberate you from that burden which is also a key to mindfulness in the flow of living. That secret hidden in plain sight is to participate. Whenever you are interested in something you easily and naturally participate. The more passionate you are about it, the more intensely you participate. In those situations, aren't you naturally present? The life skill is to find ways to upgrade your level of interest and engagement toward more passionate participation. Sometimes, it is as simple as a change of attitude, from "I have to", to "I get to". It can also be a change in perspective, for example, from the dichotomy of the glass half empty or half full to being totally full; half with water, half with air.
Most people suffer from too much stress and probably have a constant drip of adrenalin in the background of their busy lives. If you tell them they need to learn to relax they may dismiss it saying they call that "sleep". But if your default setting is on constant background stress, you cannot feel healthy and whole. We are a society of jangled nervous systems, dysfunctional brain, heart and respiratory patterns. New research on the Vagus nerve (vagal tone) indicates how important it is for immunity, anti-inflammation and sleep patterns. It is well documented that trauma patients often get locked into high stress patterns interfering with dopamine, cortisol, oxytocin and other hormonal homeostatic cycles. Techniques which foster heart, brain, nervous system and respiratory coherence are powerfully restorative, whether they are ancient disciplines like Qigong, yoga, pranayama and meditation or modern adaptations like those Drs. Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg elucidated in their book, "The Healing Power of Breath" or those applied to trauma recovery detailed in, Dr. Bessel van der Kolkt's book "The Body keeps the Score". We need a new view of relaxation; an integral interdisciplinary model to more fully understand how to augment that deep sigh of relief which signals being well.