Become Mindful, Take Charge of Your Life

Be the master of your mind, rather than its servant!

Life unfolds in the present moment, although you consider the meaning of what is happening as it relates to the past and future. Thus, it’s easy to let the present moment go by unobserved. We tend to treat the moment as a simple point in time that moves us away from the past and to the future. But, the moment is so much more than a stepping stone that gets you from one place to the next; each step offers you the chance to create experience, by the way that you choose to connect to it. You can step onto the moment seizing its power to create meaning, as you see fit, or you can jump from one moment-to-the-next, letting past learning define experience for you.

Indeed, life unfolds in the moment, because it is YOU who does the unfolding. YOU are the one who chooses your connection to the moment. YOU have the power to breathe life into the moment, to energize, renew, and to heal it through the YOU that you put forth at each moment in time.

I hope to show you today the practical nature of being mindful. Mindfulness is not just a skill for the psychologically and spiritually adept. You don’t have to travel far to become  more mindful or deprive yourself of the everyday necessities to achieve it. You have it right now. There’s nothing that you have to do to get it other than to understand your mind. Let’s start now.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a simple way of relating to your experience that can have deep impact on painful, negative experiences that you encounter.

Most of you who have already practiced mindfulness have done so because you were in emotional or spiritual pain that led you to try it. This is why I first began a formal practice of becoming mindful. I shared this experience with you in one of my first posts of this publication called The Shortness of Life: Mindfulness and My Spiritual Journey. Thus, my examples today emphasize further how mindfulness can have a deep impact on the painful, negative experiences that you encounter.

The character and intensity of the pain of certain experiences arises from the meanings you tend to give to them. Everything you learn is stored into categories of meaning in your mind. Your beliefs and values result from this learning. I’m speaking about a concept that psychological theory calls the Ego. The ego is nothing more than the learning that makes up who you are, what you believe and value, and the personality that you present to the world. Staying with the stepping stone analogy, you tend to connect one-moment-in-time-to-the-next, by this learning. You step through time with your ego, like most of us, giving meaning to experiences that are scripted by your past, no matter how much pain they cause you.

Why do we humans do this, if it causes us so much pain and leads us to repeat past mistakes? It has to do with the mind’s sole, evolutionarily-designed purpose, which is to keep you safe from harm. The mind, left on its own, will process every experience for the amount of threat that it presents to you. It is so vigorous and effective in its effort that it works without your consent. The mind begins to generate various meanings, to things happening outside of you, so that you can form an opinion, quickly, of what you are seeing and hearing, with the sole purpose of helping you to flee or fight threat. You are hard-wired to perceive certain things as threatening, like larger, predatory animals. But, much of what becomes threatening to you has been learned, even ideas, people, and things that pose little threat to your well being, if at all. Again, this is what we call the Ego. The mind, left on its own, considers the level of threat, at the moment, from both hard-wiring and learning. You are not even aware, most of the time, that your response to an experience has been configured by your mind, for you. You think it is you who has decided upon what something means, but, if you are unmindful, it is really your hard-wiring and past learning that has decided for you.

Take for example, I was walking my eight-pound Maltese dog one day and met up with a woman and her dog. I said, “May my dog say hello to yours?” As many of you know, this is standard etiquette amongst dog owners in introducing their dogs to each other. She looked somewhat suspiciously at Maxey and me and decided that her dog was too afraid to say hello. This is understandable. Some dogs are fearful of other dogs. But, it was not her dog’s fear that was revealing of the moment, but rather her response that revealed much to me about how she was connecting to our interaction. This response was: “That is odd,” she said, quite dramatically, “My dog is never afraid; I mean never!” Then, she looked at Maxey and me very suspiciously and scurried away with her dog.

Who knows what stereotypes my dog and I generated in her mind, that day. Clearly, they were not good, to her. But, it was clear to me that she was the servant, rather than master of her mind. If she were master, she would have taken in the moment fully and most likely seen that Maxey and I posed no threat to her. Then, she could have made a choice as to how she wished to respond to the interaction.

Now, let’s see how I connected to this moment in time. I noted that she backed away, and at the same time pulled her dog close to her, when I asked if Maxey could say hello to her dog. Perhaps, my openness and readiness to interact made her afraid? I don’t know. I acknowledged feelings of discomfort and surprise rising within me. It even flashed through my mind that she was responding negatively to my Middle Eastern looks, as she was very blond, in contrast. But, these were only musings of my mind, at the moment. They meant nothing other than the meaning that I chose to give to them. Because, I was present to all of the things going through my mind, I could choose to respond to her fear, rather than to negative feelings rising within me. “Hum, that is odd”, I said, kindly. “It’s okay, I understand.” And, we both went our separate ways.

Indeed, I did understand, as I was fully present to the whole of the experience. Just imagine if I had let feelings of rejection or insult guide my behavior. I might have said, angrily, “Really lady, never in your experience have you ever, ever seen this before? Sure, my eight-pound fluffy white dog and I are very spooky,” I would have said sarcastically. Then, she might have felt justified in her response. But, even more than this, I would have created a very frustrating moment for Maxey and me. I CHOSE not to go there, because I am the master of my mind and of my experience.

See how the mind works? This is what mindfulness meditation is all about. The idea is that if you are open to the thoughts, ideas, images, wishes and fantasies that run through your mind, you will better understand how much your mind controls your actions and your happiness.

Some of you let the chatter of your minds dictate how you feel and behave. This is a painful way to live your life. There’s so much of life that you cannot control. Natural disasters, death of loved ones, and many other changes that affect your home and work life. There’s too much natural suffering that comes along with life, to create it through being unmindful.

Let’s Get Mindful, Now!

Mindfulness takes practice; it is like strengthening a muscle through the exercise of it. The aim of all mindfulness exercises is to teach you how to meditate fully on the moment, to become aware of everything that your mind is doing. You learn how to stop and pay attention to all that is coming into your mind, to gently note the various meanings presented to you in the moment, without judging them as good or bad through reason, and then, to choose how you wish to connect to the experience on hand.

Mindfulness Exercise 1: Deep Breathing

Focusing on breathing is a good way to begin to practice mindfulness meditation. By focusing your mind solely on breathing, then the thoughts, ideas, images, or memories that come into your mind become more apparent to you, because the exercise defines them as unnecessary to the task on hand. Each time, you should become aware that you have moved away from concentrating on your breathing, stop, gently note what has entered into your mind, without judging it, and then let it go, and return to watching your breath. Eventually, you become aware of what your mind is generating in thoughts, in the present moment. With enough practice, you will become master of your mind, rather than its servant. The following link shows you how to practice mindfulness by focusing on your breath ( YouTube video).

Mindfulness Exercise 2: Listening to Music

Focusing on music is also a good way to practice mindfulness meditation. The same process applies here. By focusing your mind solely on a piece of music, then the thoughts, ideas, images, or memories that come into your mind, become more apparent to you, because the exercise defines them as unnecessary to the task on hand. Each time you become aware that you have moved away from concentrating on the music to which you are listening, stop, gently note what has entered into your mind, without judging it, and then let it go, and return to listening to the music. Eventually, you become aware of what your mind is generating in thoughts, in the present moment. And, with enough practice, you become master of your mind, rather than its servant. This YouTube video has beautiful images and music, for your mindfulness practice.

Psychological and Spiritual Benefits of Becoming Mindful

There are many psychological and spiritual benefits to learning how to be mindful in the moment. How well you cope and adapt to change, are able to consider the needs and desires of other people, as well as your own, social openness, and the ability to direct your behavior in goal-directed, purposeful ways are signs of good mental health. These capabilities are vital to human development and to social interaction. For certain, mindfulness strengthens you psychologically, in these ways, which lets you cope with whatever is on hand.

Also, becoming more mindful strengthens you spiritually. You become more understanding, compassionate and kind and open to the needs and desires of other people, as well as your own. Mindfulness opens the way for your spiritual beliefs and values to come forth. You act from your whole being, rather than from ego alone. I can’t say enough good things about making mindfulness your way of being. Start today.

If you liked my post today, please let me know by selecting the LIKE button that immediately follows. Also, if you would like to spread the news of this valuable resource for living, select the Google +1 link below or Tweet the link to your friends. Have a mindful day friends. Warmly, Deborah.

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5 Responses to “Become Mindful, Take Charge of Your Life”

  1. avatar Maiyada Ahmed says:

    Thankful for your wonderful efforts Dr.Deborah Khoshaba

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Malyada. I’m so glad you stopped by to visit and that you like today’s article. Be Well, Warmly Deborah.

  2. avatar Manju says:

    Hi Dr. K:

    Your posting made me reflect on people I have known in the past who were, as you stated, “servants to their mind”. I never thought of it that way, but the way you presented the example with the experience you had when walking your dog allowed me to understand the concept. It is always good to be reminded to practice mindfulness. I enjoy reading your posts. They are always enlightening. Take care.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Manju, it’s good to say hello to you. I’m glad you liked this post today. I know you know much about putting a Zen lifestyle into practice. There’s nothing I enjoy better than introducing a new idea or new way of thinking about something to my readers. Giving you more ways to think about what happens in your everyday life is what this publication is all about. Yes, you are right. There’s many ways to introduce a Zen lifestyle into our lives—and one of the ways is by becoming the master of our mind rather than servant. Isn’t it interesting that when we appreciate this better, we begin to see people who suffer unnecessarily because of the relationship they have to their minds. I’m glad my concept illustrated the idea well. Thank you again dear Manju. Warmly, your friend, Deborah.

  3. avatar Lisa says:

    hello mam,i read yur article and i m giin to try out the exercises you hv told.i m a student….n i hv seen that i decide many things but i m nt able to do it as because of my unmindfulnes i do nt get time for any thing.i am veryu slow at everything and i waste a lot f time in thinking. if you hv any mre suggetions then plz mail me


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