To be mindful is to live in the present moment. It sounds simple because it is simple, but human beings are complicated. We’re wired to make things more complex than they are. So, the practice of mindfulness can take a good deal of effort…at first. Like with all things, practice makes perfect, and being mindful is no different. Once it becomes a way of life, the results can be truly transformative. Health, well-being, compassion, happiness, and enlightenment can all be realized through mindfulness.
Buddha’s word for mindfulness was Vipassana, meaning “the path to enlightenment.” Vipassana has few rules except that, like any meaningful endeavor, it should begin with a deep breath. It has been said that by breathing deeply, we live deeply. Unfortunately, what is normal for most of us is shallow breathing, which keeps us from being truly open. After that first deep breath is exhaled, mindfulness can take many forms. It can happen during a meditation session, or it can happen in the shower before you go to work. It has been described as a “mental flashlight,” a conscious decision on where to put your focus. It isn’t the past or the future; it is now. It is a choice. It is about observing and accepting everything that comes into your mind.
Setting The Stage For Inner Peace and Joy
The mind isn’t always easy to calm, and that’s all right. Strong emotions or anxious thoughts may come up, but you can still simply acknowledge them, rather than react to them. Mindfulness isn’t always born from calm and quiet. Indeed, sometimes it is fear that catapults us into a heightened, in-the-moment state. Everything naturally slows down, and we’re able to choose our response carefully through the sudden clarity of our instinctive inner voice. What follows is empowerment and confidence. This is an excellent example of mindfulness.
Meditation is the most widely recognized form of mindful practice. Research has shown that it can aid in reducing pain experienced by hospital patients, particularly for children, women in labor, and those undergoing cancer treatment. One especially powerful technique features the use of Healing Visualization. What is visualized is entirely up to the individual, as long as it helps one enter a meditative state. A common visualization choice is that of natural surroundings—a beach, forest, or meadow. There’s something about the power of nature that sets the perfect stage for inner peace and joy. It reminds us that we’re a part of something bigger, and fills us with gratitude—another key pathway to mindfulness.
The profound connection to nature as a way of being in the present moment is also the idea behind my book, Mindful Intentions. Through the carefully selected photographs,you can take a moment to be mindful at any time of the day. Each photograph is paired with a Mindful Intention that can act as a meditative cue to help you shut out daily stresses and focus inward.At times, it’s the view of the beauty all around us that helps us to better see the beauty that lies within.
What Is a Mindful Intention?
Words are powerful. So much of who we are, what we do, and how we live is framed and forged by language. Even when the goal is to clear and calm the mind, words can be put to use very effectively. That is how we come to our Mindful Intentions.
A Mindful Intention is a word, phrase, or sentence that’s used as a cue to help the mind focus, to shine that “mental flashlight” on a singular, purposeful thought. For example, mantras—which originated in Hindu philosophy and are associated with the practice of meditation—are Mindful Intentions. The most well-known and commonly used mantra is “Om,” which is the source of all Hindu mantras. It symbolizes God—or a reflection of absolute reality, a reality that has no beginning and no end. It’s believed that by chanting “ommm” at the beginning of a meditation, the sound of the word itself creates a vibration that evokes a divine energy and allows one to enter a higher state of consciousness.
Another example of a Mindful Intention is an invocation. Invocations are used in a variety of religious disciplines to call forth God, or a spiritual force. In Christianity, it is basically used to pray. Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer is considered an invocation. We use Mindful Intentions to turn inward and become centered. As it’s reflected in the name, we use the words to help us become mindful, and we do so with a focused intent. The range of those intents can be vast. You may need to heal your mind, body, and/or spirit, for instance. You may want to feel more gratitude. Maybe you simply want to let go of your body and mind completely, or release a specific anxiety or worry. Or perhaps you just want to feel joy. Mindful Intentions can be used as tools to help you live in the present moment.
Louise Schwartzberg is a visual artist breaking barriers, connecting with audiences, and telling stories that celebrate life and reveal the mysteries
and wisdom of nature, people, and places. His film shorts and TED Talks have garnered over 37 million views. Over his long trailblazing career, Louie has earned myriad awards and honors including two
Clio Awards, an Emmy nomination for Best Cinematography, and numerous film festival prizes. Learn more at movingart.com.