Mindfulness is a topic of much modern research, and many in the West seek to reap its many benefits. What is mindfulness? In summary, mindfulness is a deep state of awareness of one’s bodily experiences, grounding the self in the present moment. Since the body can only be here and now, whereas the mind can be anywhere at any time, the practice of mindfulness normally involves intense focus on the experiences of the senses–vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The objective of this practice is to attain a state of nonjudgmental observance, or complete acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s experiences. The idea is that by paying close attention to one’s feelings, one can become less inclined to react to them thoughtlessly and more inclined to respond to them in a controlled, reasoned way.
Mindfulness as a tool can have many benefits. It helps us live more authentic, peaceful lives. It helps us remove ourselves from stress and handle pressure better. It helps us come to terms with our emotions, rather than suppressing them and waiting to lash out. It can increase our productivity by enabling us to focus our minds on only the task at hand. If you’re playing an instrument, a variation of mindfulness that involves concentration only on sound can enhance your musicality. Mindfulness has also been proven to prevent overeating and can play a major role in weight loss.
For me, the idea of mindful eating used to be ideologically tricky. I used to be hesitant about it because it meant immersing yourself in bodily experience, which is unsuitable for detachment from the senses, advocated by the Bhagavad Gita for transcending the body and experiencing unity with others. It seems that deep awareness of the taste, texture, temperature, and smell of food could only fuel any binding attachments to it, so I almost associated yoga with detached, nonindulgent, even mindless eating. I thought that just like people try to ignore what they’re hearing when they don’t like the ideas being spoken, the truly detached should ignore sensory input while eating.
Now I’ve come to realize that mindfulness is compatible with detachment; it’s awareness free from judgement, and it doesn’t have to be indulgent. Paying close attention to one’s experiences has nothing to do with forming opinions on them, and, in fact, doing so can allow us to better be at peace with them. One can still transcend the target of mindfulness by acting as a witness to, not a subject of, experience.