October 10, 2017
Episode 1: The Awareness You Are
Mindfulness is all the buzz these days. But what is mindfulness? And how can mindfulness benefit you personally? Join Thomas McConkie in this inaugural podcast introducing the practice of mindfulness. Thomas shares how he got into the practice almost 20 years ago and how, by doing simple daily exercises, you can reap profound benefits from this age-old practice.
(Thomas): Hi and welcome to Mindfulness+
I'm your host, Thomas McConkie, and this is our inaugural show. Right out of the gate I want to talk about this word "mindfulness" that is the buzz of the world right now. There are people in business contexts and education contexts, scientists talking about mindfulness, people talking about mindfulness being a revolution in human health. So, what is all this hype about? I want to address that question, but before I do that, I want to talk about how I came into the practice.
It started when I was 18 years old. I was an insomniac. I'd just moved out of my parents home to start my freshman year of college and I got to my first apartment and I unpacked my bags and I sat on the floor and I realized that my life was a total mess. I didn't know how to be on my own and what's worst, I felt a lot of emotional turbulence and wasn't able to sleep through the night. It was a really stressful time for me and somehow I just sort of absorbed out of the ether this word "meditation", “mindfulness". I started asking people about it; I'd never known a meditator, I'd never sat with any group formally to practice meditation before but something in me just started asking about how can I learn mindfulness. I had this intuition that this would help me in my challenges.
So I get doing the practice and learn my basics: posture, how to follow my breath, and I stick with it - I’ve been doing it for about six months at this point. It’s challenging but I keep doing it because I have this sense it's really going to help and it was at about the six month mark where I felt my whole life change. It changed in a very simple, subtle, but profound way. I had gone from this anxious destabilized teenager to feeling like I was really rooted in my self. I had a certain centered awareness that I'd never felt before, I didn't even know it was possible. I knew that this was the result of just having practiced mindfulness for a few months. I think in a very concrete way I could feel my breathing had changed. It had gone from this kind of nervous, anxious, chest breathing, to dropping down deep in to my belly, every breath calming me more than the last. So this totally transformed me.
It (mindfulness) changed the course of my life to learn this simple practice and I've been doing it for the last eighteen years daily and It is a joy of mine to get to share the basics of a mindfulness practice with people so that they can start their own journey with it. Your transformation if you stick with the practice will look very different from mine but I can promise you that It will be incredibly rewarding. You'll wonder how you ever lived without it, which brings me to the next point.
When we talk about mindfulness, sometimes it can sound like this really exotic technique that gurus know how to do and you don't. We're on the in and you're on the out. I want to debunk that immediately because what I love about mindfulness is mindfulness is right now. Mindfulness is who you are. What I mean by that is when you pay attention, like I invite you to do right now, what you'll notice is that you're aware. You're just simply aware. You're not trying to be aware. In fact you can't try to be aware. you're just aware. And there’s something really profound that happens when we just notice the fact that we're aware. Everything shifts. I'll give you an example. When you see a newborn infant they're new to this whole human thing and if you watch them you realize it doesn't even matter what they're looking at, it's just the fact that they're looking. To be looking at all, It doesn't matter what you're looking at, is wondrous. It's an amazing experience. To be hearing a sound. It doesn't matter if you're hearing a dump truck or if you're hearing Niagara Falls. Human hearing is an incredible experience. Infants get this really intuitively, you could say that they're enraptured by the sensorial experience of being a human. But what happens over time is that as we become used to the different sensory experiences available to us, they lose their charm.
You could say that a mindfulness practice is the practice of just remembering. It's remembering just how amazing it is to be awake, to be in a human body, to be in this very moment. That's the essence of it. There are techniques we can learn. We can rev up our mindfulness and raise our baseline of mindful awareness through exercise just like we can exercise a muscle by curling a dumbbell or doing a push-up and the muscle gets larger. There are exercises we can do in mindfulness that help us be more mindful. But at the very heart of the practice, at the very heart of the experience, you're already mindful, you’re already mindfulness. You're awareness is already perfectly present. You're already perfectly here and in that sense, to practice mindfulness is to just celebrate what's already here. If that sounds intriguing to you I invite you to join us after this short break and I'll take you in to what might be your first mindful experience.
Thank you for listening to Mindfulness+. If you get benefit from this show, please pay it forward by sharing it with a friend, with your loved ones, and taking a moment to go to ITunes and give us a rating which will help people everywhere discover this life changing practice.
Welcome back. You're listening to Mindfulness+, I'm your host, Thomas McConkie, and just as promised I'm going to lead you in a guided meditation here. I'll invite you to just listen to my voice and notice what happens.
Start by just bringing awareness to the physical body. Noticing the moment. I prompt you to notice the physical body, your awareness just goes right there. It's not effortful, you're just suddenly aware of the physical body. And you can just notice the flow of sensation in this moment. If you're sitting down you can notice what it feels like to be sitting. If you're standing, you can notice the sensation of standing. Or if you're walking, you can just be present to the sensations as you walk. But what I want you to notice especially here is that it doesn't take any special effort or special training to simply notice that you're already aware. In this case, you can just notice that you're aware of body sensation and just let body sensation flow and enjoy. And in this moment you notice hearing. Notice any sound in the environment in this moment. If there’s not sound whatsoever you can attend to the silence, the absence of sound. And again just notice how effortlessly you're aware of sound, aware of hearing. You don't need any special training to do this. You simply turn your attention one degree making a slight shift, suddenly noticing all the sound in the world.
At this point if your eyes aren't already open, I'd invite you to open your eyes and just notice seeing. Notice the different shapes, different colors in your visual field, the volume of space, maybe you're sitting in a small room. Maybe you're outdoors beneath the wide open sky. Whatever the case, you can just notice the experience of seeing all of this. And notice, appreciate that it doesn't take any special training to do this. Just bringing awareness to seeing. You're aware of seeing. Seeing is happening.. it's just happening.
Give yourself a nice full breath, letting go and softening even more. Notice that all of these different qualities of awareness are happening all at once: feeling, hearing, seeing, all just different experiences within the experience of awareness. Of being aware. And at the heart of experience you're always already aware.
So what just happened? What were we doing here? There are many mindfulness teachers in the world right now. Many extremely talented and knowledgeable mindfulness teachers. They have their own definitions on what mindfulness actually is but I want to offer you my own, very simple definition, which hopefully you had a chance to just experience. Mindfulness is the awareness that you are. Let me say that again: mindfulness is the awareness that you are. So in that sense mindfulness is the practice of just remembering that we're already aware. It's being aware that we're aware. When we're buried in daily tasks, when we're stressed about where we need to get to next, we forget this joy and simple feeling of being that comes through our own awareness. So when we take a moment or pause, when we shift attention one degree, when we pay attention to how we're paying attention, these are all mindful moves. As we make these mindful moves more and more they become habit and this habit changes our experience. It changes the course of our lives. This is just a little taste of what's to come on the show.
Thank you so much for joining for this first podcast and I invite you to listen again and come join us and develop this powerful skill. Not only skill though, to remember this incredible thing that you already are. You might have simply forgotten.