Mindfulness is tending the garden of your soul. It is tending the garden through your attention, through your awareness, the efforts of your intention, the persistence, the remembrance, the vigilance, the care. Daily, like a gardener, you return to the garden.
Any word that works for you, that awakens a watchfulness inside you can be used as your reminder. Instead of mindfulness, you can use awareness, you can use witnessing, being attentive, awakening, a quality inside that by virtue of your remembrance again becomes active and lights up. It’s almost as if you are a guard at the watchtower and you remember to wake up and do your work. And the mindfulness is a total, complete attention. It is not simply a faculty of the mind and thinking. It is a deep witnessing presence – a global attention from and to deeper and deeper places within you.
The source of our attention is a wonderful thing to track inside and it ultimately leads us to a mystery. It leads us to inner doors. And presence — the way I am using presence — is the natural growth and availability of the garden. Just as you are in this very moment, there’s a certain amount of presence within you, available to you. You’ve cleared so much of the garden and you can rest within that circumference. That is the presence that is now available to you. It is available to you at any moment in your life when you remember to turn it on, to light it up with attention and mindfulness.
Please remember these words are just signposts to lead us inside. The experience is what matters. The reality inside is the important matter. Presence indicates, for me, the garden of your inner being, the garden of your soul, now in this moment, accessible and available to you. It is common and natural that there are certain obstructions and barriers to the expanse of your being and this may take some work, some tending. You may have to roll your sleeves up and do a bit of clearing so that your available presence grows and becomes more expansive. Like a garden our inner nature grows naturally when provided a healthy ground and soil and does not flourish when crowded out of its natural habitat or deprived of necessary nutrients.
The way this teaching assists and helps in growing your conscious presence of this wonderful ground of being is through engaging you in five inner arts or practices. Each of these arts helps establish a deep sense of presence throughout the expanse of your life, thereby allowing you to naturally grow in your own authentic and essential potentiality.
I- Art of Meditation
Through the art of meditation you learn to focus and center yourself inwards, beginning to quiet the mind and settle into the deeper regions of your awareness, ultimately settling more into your essential authentic self. You cultivate time in your life to turn your attention, your mindfulness, upon various inner experiences such as your breath, your body sensations, thoughts, moods and eventually the very source of your attention.
An inner sense of awareness begins to grow that becomes the core of your presence. Your meditation begins to reveal the source of the being that is within you that is always here, always available. This anchoring of your attention in your inner being provides a sort of pilot light of presence ready to integrate into your everyday life.
As you explore meditation you will discover there are many methods and many approaches. The central method in this work is directing your mindfulness, your full and complete attention, to various inner experiences beginning with the body. Spend some time simply being mindful of the body – the sensations, the breath, the sounds, all aspects of your physical experience. Simply be attentive – tend to the body with your attention.
Next, direct your mindfulness towards watching the mind, watching the thoughts, watching the activity inside the mind and the brain. You are not changing anything. You are just being mindful of mental activity, just witnessing, paying attention to every thought, to every movement, to every distraction, to every leaving each moment that you leave and every return as you come back. So as a tender, a gardener, be patient with yourself and with the power of your mindfulness bring yourself back.
Next, for a while guide your mindfulness towards your emotional self, noticing any feelings, any moods, not changing them, but watching. You are simply allowing whatever the inner weather is like to be observed and held by your mindfulness.
And then with your mindfulness you go to the depths, to the sources, to the very ground of your being, which meets exactly at the place that is the ground of your attention, the ground of your mindfulness. You are establishing your witnessing presence. Allow your presence to sink inside the soil, to go deep within your being. Rest and replenish yourself in your own rich sources and witness as your soul begins to effortlessly flower some of its essence.
II- Daily Mindfulness
Another practice we call daily mindfulness. I also call it the daily practice of presence. It is going through your everyday normal world with a commitment to be mindful as much through the day as you can remember, knowing that your attention will leave, will get caught up into events. But as you remember throughout your day, let that pilot light of your presence be there to support the action, providing an engaged presence. This is not going to take away from the work that you need to produce. Actually, this is going to enable you to be more present as you are carrying those actions out, as you are living through all the minutes of your day. You will be practicing the beloved and challenging art of not abandoning yourself while engaged in daily living.
This in no way means that to be mindful you have to go through the day looking like the meditator, somber and detached from all of life, lost in the gaze of your own navel. Your vital core of life force comes with you and you have the opportunity to engage life with your complete totality, with your full potential. Presence can be salty, spontaneous, irreverent, sensual, and full of humor as well as sacred, peaceful, creative and service-oriented. Folks, presence can be juicy and fun! It needs no masks, no faces. You simply maintain awareness. You simply remain true to your authentic presence.
(Part II will cover three inner arts: Dialogue, Inquiry and Creativity)