Mindful Living

What can we learn about mindful living? Living mindfully is defined as living in the now, finding ourselves in the present moment. Often, we can get caught up in thinking about our past or even the future. This can be a great cause of stress that takes a toll on us emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Achieving a state of mindfulness is not only one of the main teachings of Maimonides in the Torah, but also a cornerstone of the teachings of Positive Psychology.

Mindful Living and Maimonides

Mindful living means living in the present in every sense. It means being conscious of the thoughts we are thinking and the emotions we are feeling. Essentially, practicing mindfulness comes down to the ability to self-regulate. Self-regulation helps us adopt a neutral mindset towards our experiences in life. Moreover, increasing our focus and concentration on what we are doing and reflecting on tasks we are currently engaged in can provide us with meaning and fulfillment.

“If we pray with the motion of our lips and our face toward the wall, but simultaneously think of business; if we read the Torah with our tongue while our heart is occupied with the building of our house and we do not think of what we are reading; if we perform the commandments only with our limbs; then we are like those who are engaged in digging the ground or hewing wood in the forest without reflecting on the nature of those acts, or by whom they are commanded, or what is their purpose.” (Maimonides, Guide to the Perplexed, Volume I, Chapter 6)

Reflecting on the reasoning behind what we do on a daily basis not only provides us with meaning but with purpose for the life we are living. We can also practice mindful living by learning how to focus the mind on any given task. Maimonides prescribes mindful living methods through his writings, in the Guide to the Perplexed, Volume I, Chapter 6):

“The first thing you must do is turn your thoughts away from everything while you say the Shema  or other daily prayers. Do not content yourself with being pious when you read merely the first verse of Shema or the first paragraph of the Amidah prayer. When you have successfully practiced this for many years, try when reading or listening to the Torah to have all your heart and thoughts occupied with understanding what you read or hear… After some time, when you have mastered this, accustom yourself to having your mind free from all other thoughts when you read any portion of the other books of the prophets, or when you say any blessing… direct your mind exclusively to what you are doing.”

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Not only does the practice of mindfulness increase our focus and concentration for tasks, its practice also allows us to gain the many benefits associated with mindfulness, such as:

1.       Promoted sense of well-being. 

2.       Improved working memory.

3.       Increased defense against developing depression.

4.       Efficient use of strengths.

5.       Developed resilience.

6.       Shrinkage in the stress region of the brain.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness cannot be overstated. Practice promotes our overall physical well-being and mental health. Our ability to remember is strengthened and reaction time is heightened. By being mindful, we can ward off depression and develop our character strengths. We learn to assume a neutral point of view. Our lives will undoubtedly be transformed as we attribute meaning to the things we are doing and focus on being completely present in every moment.