The learning by doing of mindfulness

People come to meditation from different starting points and with different motivations.  Some people come with previous meditation experience and knowledge of mindfulness, while others come completely new to the practice and with no idea what they're getting into.  Others come full of misconceptions about what meditation and mindfulness is.

But the truth is that all of what we know or don't know or think we know we can leave at the figurative door when we come in, because we don't need to fully understand what mindfulness is, what it isn't, or how it works, in order to experience it.  We only need to be willing to engage with it through our practice.   

This is a learning by doing experience. 

Many of us struggle with this concept, because we're not accustomed to doing something before we understand what that something is.  We want to know exactly what we're getting into, and what we're going to get out of it.  We want to know exactly how this thing works before we can trust it. This need-to-know reveals patterns within us about how we seek safe-footing before we take a step.  It can feel counter-intuitive to us to do otherwise. But in its essence, mindfulness is an embodied experience, the embodied understanding of which can only come through practicing it. 

We can read all the books on mindfulness in the world, and even become inspired by them to make positive changes in our lives, but if we then do nothing to weave the wisdom from the books we read into our everyday lived experience, we will never realize the practice as a lived experience.  Instead it'll remain an intellectual potential that sounds nice and ideal, if not somewhat out of reach, except for the accidental or spontaneous moments of mindfulness that either depend on circumstances being a certain way, or seem magical to us for their randomness and unpredictability.  

Our dedication to a mindfulness practice takes the accidental and spontaneous out of such moments - where we feel and embrace the fullness of our experience - and makes it an intentional practice and a habit capable of transforming our experience. 

The challenge for us is: can we commit to engaging with the practice despite our lack of understanding and uncertainty as to the outcome?  

The truth is that we are always living in uncertainty, whether or not we embrace this truth.  Our fear and doubt keep us on guard and give us the illusion of control over our lives.  The good news is, we don't need to push our doubt and uncertainty and fear away, as impossible as that would be. It's there and it's our starting point for our practice. We don't need to be convinced by it in order to do it, and we can bring the quality of curiosity inherent in our mindfulness practice to our doubt and uncertainty as well. 

Try it out: pause now and direct your awareness to your breath.  Can you sense it entering and leaving the body?  Can you allow the breath to be just as it is right now, without trying to change it, without evaluating whether our breathing is good or bad? 

That was a moment of mindful awareness, and it's always accessible to us.