Maybe I now get the mindfulness thing. When I’m doing something, thinking or sleeping reality slips away. However, there are occasions when I’m doing practically nothing. Then I look around and notice the real world: the hairs on my arm and the veins in my hands; the warmth of my palms on my thighs; the drip of the tap from the kitchen, the buzz of the fridge and the dust on my laptop. All this was there all the time but I was too preoccupied to notice. Strange.
I think all the talk of observing one’s breath is a red herring. That aims at some artificially pure state. Accidental and fleeting moments of lucidity are also possible and less contrived, less aimed for. I now think of those moments as quiet backwaters in time that I’m occasionally and accidentally deposited into. For a few moments I’m out of the current and time seems to slow down. Seconds later I’m swept up again by the current and I’m gone. Those moments never last and perhaps shouldn’t. They may be like yawning or sighing, the body’s way reacting to something that has been going on too long.
Some say the feeling arises when you are ‘here and now’ but I think that’s only half the story. For example, yesterday I was travelling on a Tokyo train and looking at the Japanese people sitting opposite me. I was completely ‘here and now’ since I was really interested in what the people were doing or wearing. Even so, there was no overwhelming sense of reality, no sense of the strangeness of being alive. I was just as lost to myself as I am when I’m daydreaming. It seems you need to be both here and now and conscious of yourself for that specific feeling of being alive here and now to descend on you.
So should we do as devotees of mindfulness claim and extend these mildly pleasant moments to more of our waking lives? I suppose it depends on what you want from life. I personally suspect that these feelings are like nostalgia, something best suited to old people sitting quietly in their afternoon armchairs. For younger people life is, primarily, for living.