Radical mindfulness: a motionless journey from mind to fullness
Beneath the stories about who you are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going is a deep receptivity which is both creative and accepting - it is the fundamental source of life and also the unconditional embrace of our mind-made stories. It’s what I call ‘deep knowing’: an all-encompassing awareness that lovingly holds every experience including our immediate aliveness, beingness or presence. Given earnest focus, pure awareness, a nonintellectual “knowing” comes to the surface naturally because we are never disconnected from it - we are it. Therefore, awakening is not about amassing more or attainment, but rather about seeing beyond our superficial limitations and recognising the deeper truth of what we already are.
This approach is called “radical mindfulness,” which is nothing other than the readiness to observe, acknowledge, and question our experience without censorship. Living this way, we refuse to be led by duality and deficiency. Instead, we find the courage to see, welcome, and work with all that comes our way, returning to the immediacy of what we inherently are even in our dualistic expressions.
Being willing to no longer fight nor anaesthetise ourselves, being brave enough to bring mindfulness to our suffering, is a sign that our mindfulness is deepening. When we are radically mindful we give ourselves an opening to be fearlessly present with the gloom of our malaise in its many shades. Surprisingly what we give unconditional space to becomes less heavy, dense and sticky. With a radically mindful perspective, human experience no longer defines us. Instead, it celebrates our abundant potential.
The art of seeing beyond mind to fullness
Please don’t get me wrong, being a person or with a human body and mind is fine, but limiting ourselves this way is based on a deep-seated misunderstanding: that life is dualistic. The opposite is actually true, we are unlimited and we discover this astonishing truth through being courageous, open and curious.
We could say that radical mindfulness is the art of seeing beyond the mind (duality) to fullness (non-duality - which is so full, so all-inclusive it’s also empty because it’s all there is). As we experientially assimilate the viewpoint of life seen from deep knowing and realise the essential perfection of every form and expression, we unite with and communicate that truth.
The essence of meditation and inquiry practice is mindfulness. When mindfulness is radical, meditation has the potential to make clear that we are (felt as aliveness, beingness, consciousness, or I-am-ness), and inquiry can make clear what we are (our non-dual self, boundless awareness). Even amid everyday activity, we can find that this receptivity is happening under the surface of the mind and is readily available. We need to create space in the restless stream of thought to access it. We do this by observing it and returning again and again to our focus of localised consciousness. This helps us appreciate that fleeting phenomena - thoughts, emotions, sensations, and mental images - arise from awareness (or deep knowing) and fall back into awareness, and that knowing, albeit frequently obscured, is undeviating. Ordinary existence continues, but we are in touch with our most loyal companion - our aliveness - which connects us to our original home.
Asking what’s true right now
Fundamentally, radical mindfulness is asking the question “What is true?” and being prepared for incomprehensible answers. Yes, question everything, not necessarily to gain more answers but to release your assumptions. Question to make room for the light of truth to fill every part of your unlimited capacity.
This isn’t an intellectual exercise (although we can of course use and acknowledge our minds for the remarkable tools they are) and it certainly isn’t meant to be prescriptive. It’s an invitation to direct engagement with life, not analysis of it. Mindfulness means to focus awareness onto what’s taking place in the present moment. This focusing is a fruitful use of mind, along with its getting out of the way and watching with interest. Then our mind will gradually be less likely to dictate or hamper the inevitable flow of life.
This is your invitation to turn within and find that what you thought belonged only to the outer world has its foundation inside your localised consciousness, the ground of aliveness you already know so well on one “level”. Then, in the space of mindfulness, non-dual awareness will reveal itself to you as your all-pervading and ever-present companion.
Living the life that we are with radical mindfulness doesn’t end in reaching a final destination, so even the “truth” signpost is temporary. Indeed, our motionless journey is to rediscover our origin and root ourselves in wholeness which is here and now. On an experiential level, this is authentic living. Even your desire for things to be different can be met with clarity and compassion.
Holding what is mindfully
By meeting the present moment with radical mindfulness, you’ll become more and more able to align your responses with the love and peace inherent within your fullest self. You’ll become more and more aware of the background of “existential holding”.
Try this short exercise:
Bring your attention to the effortless quality of “holding.” Glance around at everything in your scope of experience (internal and external): sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, thoughts, feelings, as well as your identities and your vital aliveness. Try to comprehend experientially that whatever is unfolding in your present experience has full permission to appear in and as you. Welcome the notion that all of this is temporary. Nothing is final. Ask: “What knows the contents of this capacity deeply?”; “From where does this holding capacity arise?”
Desire and fear may visit, but we disidentify with them as soon as we witness them, making true forgiveness and love possible. Our witnessing or seeing takes place from the unrestricted unfolding of oneness whose vision comes from the self. This radical mindfulness is self-intimacy. This is not about trying to bypass our humanity, however. It’s about recognising that we are that which creates and embraces our bittersweet humanness without condition.
Through our willingness to hold and release whatever arises we awaken to a transformative truth and love. Through awakening to this truth and love we learn that we are, and have always been, all- pervading, intimately one, radically alone. We awaken to an enriching and comforting communion with all.
This radical mindfulness is the moment-by-moment clarification and focusing of the mind; it’s a way of relating with the full scope of our experience through being mindful and broadening our spiritual “vision.” Being aware this way, we realise that whatever is present has a rightful place for no other reason than because it already is here. Above all, I believe everything you need is already within you, so meditative inquiry begins with meeting yourself exactly where you are with a heart of love and wonder.
Make peace with what’s present; it’s easier than you might think. But here’s the caveat: peace is the end of the separate self. Why? Because the individual operates in a discordant, resentful state of imagined fragmentation. The individual doesn’t have the capacity to contain the wholeness of existence - even though it tries its hardest to by embracing acquisition and aversion. This “push-pull” game obscures tranquility, and fulfilment seems to exist elsewhere - in the past or future, anywhere but here. But what is is already in harmony with life.
Appearance is acceptance. Sit with this notion for a while: beyond the mind’s judgmental narrative, appearance is acceptance.
The SEER CRAFTS for radical mindfulness
What follows is a map for radical mindfulness. It comprises a group of qualities and skills related to discerning focus, which I explore in depth throughout ten dedicated chapters.
Since mindfulness clarifies our experience, the four qualities involved are arranged by an acronym that you can use as a mnemonic, SEER, while the mnemonic CRAFTS sets out the six skills involved:
The SEER qualities?
Sincere curiosity: An openness to exploring life with fresh eyes and an open heart.
Embracing and releasing experience: Honouring what is present, knowing it will pass.
Earnest questioning: Deeply investigating assumptions and ideas about ourselves, others, and life.
Receptiveness to truth: Getting out of the way and allowing the “bigger picture” to present itself.
The Radically Mindful CRAFTS
Courage: The readiness and fortitude to inquire, not being led astray by fear or the need for comfort.
Remembrance of self: Reconnecting with the most authentic version of ourselves.
Attention: Knowing that the art of living is a matter of focus.
Fullness and emptiness: Holding everything and nothing in balance.
Tranquility: Tapping into the still, silent place beneath the restlessness of the mind.
Surrender: Making peace with what is, not trying to reach a final conclusion or ideal.
About the author
Nic Higham is a qualified counsellor in Leicester, UK. His book, published by Non-duality Press, is 'Living The Life That You Are' (http://amzn.eu/hjqraYP) which explores existential loneliness and existential anxiety. www.thelifethatyouare.com
Related articles from our experts
Nic HighamJune 30th, 2018
Jayne Phillips, Therapeutic Counsellor, Dip Couns, MBACP RegisteredJuly 13th, 2018
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Imi Lo: Specialist Psychotherapist, Art Therapist (MMH,FRSA,UKCP,HCPC)March 29th, 2015
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.