Home Wisdom Articles Pujya Gurudevshri Pujya Gurudevshri Insights Being Mindfully Present

Being Mindfully Present

Have you ever been hit with the realisation that, though you were carrying on an activity like eating or walking, it was actually being done mechanically. Pujyashri Gurudev elucidates how the simple practice of awareness can bring about a revolution in your life

People do everything in a state of slumber. They transact business, perform daily chores, make friends, and even make enemies, all in a state of slumber! They live in this state all day long. They even practice religion in ignorance. They turn the beads of the rosary, they worship in temples, they practice vows, but mechanically. Every action is carried out in a state of stupor! But dharma cannot be practised in such a state of unawareness; only adharma can be practiced in unawareness. Thus in the name of dharma, it is adharma that prevails.

Once you realise that you are in a state of unawareness, the next step is to find out how to awaken from this sleep, this unawareness.

Religion – an Awakening

What do you say if someone asks, “How do I learn swimming?” “Just start swimming,” you advise him. He replies, “I don’t even know how to swim. How do I start? What do I do to start? I will not get into the water until I have learnt swimming.”

What he says seems quite logical, but it isn’t true. He needs to be explained that swimming cannot be learnt without stepping into the water. To him this argument may appear illogical but it is true to experience. He has to get into the water and the first time he does, it is without knowing how to swim. Just enter water that is shallow enough not to drown you, and yet deep enough to allow you to swim. You will have to start somewhere, so why not start from here!

To get into shallow water means to start practising awareness in small day-to-day activities. For instance, walking on the road. Most people walk with unawareness. If you stand aside and observe people walking, you will spot many of them talking to themselves, some waving their hands about, some talking to people who are not physically with them. All these people are in a state of slumber. You will be surprised at how so many people can walk in sleep! For them, walking is merely a habit carried out without any awareness. When somebody honks, they get startled and step aside. For a moment they may wake up and then go back to walking mechanically.

Like a Machine

Do you know that you do not reach home consciously? Your feet move towards your home like a machine. You see the door shut and so you ring the doorbell. You do not need to be aware in doing any of these acts because they can all be done in slumber, out of sheer habit. While actions happen mechanically, within, you continue to live without awareness.

The mind does not like to learn anything new because to do so the mind has to readjust itself. This is why one prefers habits. Dealing with anything new is met with immediate opposition, because one would have to abandon the ‘comfort’ of unawareness. Even religion is practised without awareness.

A ‘gentleman’, when he smokes, brings a cigarette to his lips, lights it, puffs at it, and throws it away. No one will say that he is asleep, for if it were so, the cigarette would have burnt his fingers. Nevertheless, he is asleep! Before his fingers get burnt, he does wake up slightly to throw away the cigarette, but soon returns to his slumber.

Dharma means awareness, progression, an ability to move ahead while adharma is unawareness and stagnation. To do anything out of habit therefore is not dharma. Habit is like a pond, while dharma is like a river that flows towards the ocean of Consciousness. A religious person is therefore progressive.

Be Totally Present

Start by becoming aware in the small acts in which you do not need to involve yourself too much. For instance, walking on the road, eating, dressing up, etc. To become aware of intense emotions like anger, you will need to delve deeper, whereas all these acts are superficial. Therefore, you will find it easier to be aware of them. You will be surprised to see the results of performing simple acts like dressing up and wearing shoes with awareness. It will be an unprecedented refreshing experience every time.

Whatever you do, do not do it mechanically, do it with awareness. For instance, when you are walking on the road, your body is walking and your mind is wandering elsewhere. The day your mind is where your body is, awareness of the Self will begin. When the mind and the body are together, at the same place, at the same time, you will understand that you are beyond the body and the mind, and you will become aware of ‘That’ essence which is the observer of both.

After beginning with developing awareness in small acts, bring awareness towards emotions like anger and hatred. Try to be angry consciously, with complete awareness and you will find that to be an extremely difficult task. The matter is slightly profound, but try it out. Someday, try to act as if you are angry, then you will easily be able to keep your awareness in it. Decide that you want to get very angry at a particular person, say your wife, even though there is no apparent reason to do so. You only want to act as if you are angry, so you will easily be able to keep your awareness. You will be able to ‘see’ your act of anger. On one hand, the anger will continue, and on the other, you will be able to witness that anger. And if you are able to ‘see’ this acting, with awareness, the next time anger arises, it will automatically turn into acting! If you are able to enact anger even once, you will never be able to actually get angry. In the name of anger, you will only be acting. Your internal bond with anger will just snap.

Awareness Even in Sleep

If you are able to attain awareness while awake, you will start maintaining the same awareness even while asleep. It is said in the Gita that the yogis maintain their awareness even when they are asleep. If you are able to maintain awareness when you are asleep, you will be very surprised. Your whole life will change. If you can sleep at night with awareness, then it will be a miracle. You will be asleep outwardly, yet, awake within. You will wake up with an unprecedented freshness. This freshness has nothing to do with the body, for it is connected deep within, with the soul. The day you are able to sleep with awareness, your dreams will begin to disappear, because it will be possible for you to be aware of your dreams as well.

But at the moment you do not know how the darkness of sleep descends upon you; nor do you know how it disappears. The day you are in a state of awareness and have awareness in all the actions you perform like eating, dressing up, walking etc., that day, you will be truly amazed.

Supreme Awareness

Ananda lived with Lord Buddha for many years. One day he told Buddha, “Sometimes, when I am unable to sleep at night, I keep watching you. You sleep on the same side; you do not move your hands or legs even an inch. Your head too remains in the same position all night. I am surprised as I need to toss and turn so often in my sleep.” Lord Buddha answered, “When you toss and turn, are you aware that you are doing so?” “No, I do not know anything.” Ananda replied, “I only realise that I have moved in the morning when I see that I am not in the same position as I was when I went to sleep. Is it possible for someone to know this in his sleep?” Lord Buddha said, “I am awake even in my sleep. My awareness remains even as I sleep. My hand remains exactly where I place it. I do not move it, and if it moves without my moving it, I am no longer the master.”

So long as you are asleep, so long as you are unaware even while you are awake during the day, it will not be possible for you to sleep with awareness. Therefore, be alert, and consciously cultivate awareness. As your love for awareness matures and your practice becomes intense, your awareness will bloom, and when awareness blooms, you shall attain a state of enlightenment.


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