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On the way to work, I once saw a guy on a bicycle texting on his cellphone. With both hands…

… which brings us to the topic of mindfulness. The word “mindful” is one of those words that only gains meaning after some experience with it. For example, to some, it can mean “thinking too much”. In a meditation class, the master can ask us to be mindful, and we can say “… okaaay…”, expecting to discover the meaning after some reflection. I’d like to help define it here.

It’s like “mind the gap” or “mind your manners”. It also means “be aware of”, but I find it useful to think of it as “pay attention to”. Pay attention to the road. Pay attention to what you’re eating.

Being mindful of the moment means to pay attention to what we’re doing at the moment, or what’s happening at that moment. If we’re driving, pay attention to the road, don’t let the mind wander, don’t talk on the cellphone, don’t eat. Pay attention. Being mindful of eating means to pay attention to each bite as we chew it then swallow it. Don’t wolf it down, watch TV, read, or talk while eating. Put the fork down more often. As a result, we start to realize that either a) our food tastes like cardboard or b) it really tastes good. At any rate, we start to become aware of what we’re doing and the consequences of it.

It doesn’t mean to have a mind full of thoughts. There’s the paradox: in my opinion, to be mindful means to have our mind empty of thoughts, those thoughts that come flying into our head like a torrent of quick-fix junk food. Some of those thoughts are useful, but unless we can recall them and make use if them, they are gone and thus, useless. To be empty of thoughts doesn’t mean to be in a catatonic state, it actually means to have a clean desk, one that is ready to accept what it senses from the real world around it. To use driving as an example, if we’re being mindful of driving, we are aware of all the cars, pedestrians and such around you, ready to react to things that may appear out of nowhere. If, however, we’re texting while driving, those texting thoughts take up mind space that needs to be available to react to the real world outside. The same is true of thoughts of the past or future. They’re not out there now, so it’s not a good idea to be aware of them.

“Practise what you preach” department: I just got a speeding ticket for doing 70 in a 50 zone on a route I take almost every day. The nice (really) constable suggested I might have been daydreaming. Indeed. Not being mindful cost me 40 bucks. Good thing that’s all it cost.

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