When I describe effortless mindfulness, some people tell me they’ve had this feeling walking in nature, playing music, gardening, making love, driving a car, or during a special moment in their past that they long to return to. Many of us have been intuitively practicing some form of effortless mindfulness throughout our lives — while being creative, with loved ones, or while playing sports. And some of us have experienced it when we suddenly became calm and clear during a crisis.
For example, we may have shifted into effortless mindfulness while hiking with friends. While hiking, we may notice that as soon as we reach the summit of the hill, our goal seeking stops for that moment. Our identity as a seeker relaxes as we look at the sky and feel our awareness and mind open into it. We might look at our friends and feel a sense of connection and open-heartedness. We feel fully present, with no problems to solve and nothing to push away. We look at the trees and feel connected and part of nature. Our separate sense of self relaxes to reveal a wordless experience that rests in a place of “all is well.” At times like these, we feel freedom, clarity of mind, joy, connection to nature and other people, and a sense of well-being. However, we often associate these enjoyable qualities with an activity or place without realizing that the source is already available within us.
Because we don’t always know that the source of our joy and freedom is already available to us, we might later say, “I miss that incredible feeling I had while hiking last week. I’ll have to wait until my next vacation to return there.” Yet, if we try to recreate an experience by doing the same activity again, our expectation may keep us from relaxing the seeking mind enough to allow effortless mindfulness to be revealed.
Without knowing it, most of us do our favorite leisure activities to experience effortless mindfulness and its natural qualities of freedom and joy. We do what we love to experience effortless mindfulness. However, effortless mindfulness and its qualities are not dependent on what we do or where we are. So even at work or in the New York City subway, we can discover the inner freedom, love, and clarity that are who we truly are.
GLIMPSE: Memory Door
First, read this mindful glimpse below. Next, choose a memory of a time you felt a sense of freedom, connection, and well-being. Then do this mindful glimpse using your memory as a door to discover the effortless mindfulness that is already here now.
- Close your eyes. Picture a time when you felt well-being while doing something active like hiking in nature. In your mind, see and feel every detail of that day. Hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel the air on your skin; notice the enjoyment of being with your companions or by yourself; recall the feeling of walking those last few yards toward your destination.
- Visualize and feel yourself as you have reached your goal and are looking out over the wide-open vista. Feel that openness, connection to nature, sense of peace and well-being. Having reached your goal, feel what it’s like when there’s no more striving and nothing to do. See that wide-open sky with no agenda to think about, and then simply stop. Feel this deep sense of relief and peace.
- Now, begin to let go of the visualization, the past, and all associated memories slowly and completely. Remain connected to the joy of being that is here within you.
- As you open your eyes, feel how the well-being that was experienced then is also here now. It does not require you to go to any particular place in the past or the future once it’s discovered within and all around.
It’s often effective to record the mindful glimpses you like best in your own voice, at a pace that seems right for you. Then listen to your own voice lead you home.
You can also find recorded glimpses in Loch’s audio training guides: Shift into Freedom: A Training in the Science and Practice of Open-Hearted Awareness and Effortless Mindfulness Now.