Many times since we first started practicing yoga, we have heard the now popular adage that we have to take yoga off the mat and into daily life. Many times have we heard about connecting and re-connecting to ourselves, laying out intentions, being present, practicing ahimsa no matter what situation we are facing, etc.
But despite our determination, the gap remains, the void remains. All the wonderful feelings, all the honest intentions, all the presence, all the peacefulness and calmness that abound during our practice, magically volatilize the moment we encounter our first or second or third challenge in the concrete jungle. How it does still happen after years of practice, after so many workshops and books and lectures may become puzzling and frustrating. What are we missing? Where are we failing?
Moreover, we may even get the opposite effect and notice that, not only our lives are not improving as we wished, but our yoga practice is deteriorating as we begin to judge ourselves, compare with other practitioners, criticize teachers, put down other practices, or gossip about other students. Clearly we lose the connection to yoga, the happiness of yoga, and when I say yoga I mean any attempt to human development be it a religious or spiritual movement.
The foundations of human development, the foundations of life itself, are found in the pure and simple observation of the process of living. It is not until we begin to experience life in full awareness that we can tap into the infinite possibilities of our multidimensional being and into the ultimate meaning of life. This is called Mindfulness.
But the question remains: How do we do it? How do we incorporate this mindful approach to daily life? First of all, we need to understand that mindfulness is not a set of techniques; that is just a very tiny, albeit helpful, part of it that can be used to improve attention and reduce stress. Mindfulness is a thorough journey through the different aspects of life and the Self. It is mostly a process of understanding, accepting, and witnessing creation and how it evolves without getting carried away in the process. Mindfulness can be manifested through the gradual development of a mindful body (diet, lifestyle, wholesome routines, etc), a mindful mind (ethical living, life purpose, meditation), mindful energy (understanding, tapping into, saving and protecting energy), mindful healing (disease prevention, listening to your body, managing pain), and mindful communication (from self-empathy to honest expression).
Once we start understanding all these aspects of ourselves, we naturally begin to incorporate them in our daily life. It is not a quick process as we are breaking up with years of mental programs and behavioral patterns but it is a very satisfying one, from the very beginning.
Basically, mindfulness is the foundation, the cornerstone, the essence of any and all spiritual practices. There is simply no way we can understand life, the universe, the Divine until we know ourselves. And there is no way we can understand ourselves until we begin observing and fully experiencing what we are.