When I was in the 10th grade, our science teacher told us we only used 10 percent of our brains, and if we could learn how to use more of our brain we could "be as smart as Einstein."
Fast forward to 2014, neuroscientists are still talking about 10 percent of your brain, but this time there is a critical bit of new information -- the 10 percent is used in thinking, analysis, and functioning in the outside world. The remaining 90 percent is required to maintain our bodies, function in our dynamic environment, and do things we have yet to understand.
So the truth is that we only know about 10 percent of who and what we are. That's where mindfulness comes in. The practice of mindfulness is about discovering the other 90 percent -- your inner world. It is a return to the entirety of your being.
Here are five things to understand as you practice mindfulness:
1. The Neuroscience of Mindfulness -- Our brain has two distinct modes: One deals with the outside world and one deals with the inside world. Mindfulness is when we turn our attention to the inside world.
2. The See-Saw Effect -- When your thinking goes up, your mindfulness goes down, and vice versa. You should become familiar with how each mode feels.
3. The Language of Your Inner World -- It doesn't use words; that's for the outside world. Communication comes in the form of body feelings, background emotions, unexpected aha moments, and gradual change.
4. The Landscape of Your Inner World -- It's a nice place. For the first month or so, just check it out, look around, observe. Remember: When you observe and then try to change something, it will take you out of the mindful (inner) mode and back into the outer mode. It's tricky.
5. The Simplicity of Mindfulness Practice -- It's not like you have to learn anything new. Humans are hard-wired to be mindful. You just need to practice. As Dr. John Teasdale of Qxford, the leading mindfulness researcher said, "Mindfulness isn't difficult. What's difficult is to remember to be mindful."
A Simple Practice Plan
How to Begin -- Sit comfortably, release to gravity, close your eyes, observe what's going on inside. It is continually changing -- just observe the "landscape." Don't try to understand, and don't get into conversations with yourself. Don't try to change anything. Don't try to recreate yesterday's results. Just quietly sit and get to explore yourself from the inside.
Dealing with Boredom -- Just sitting and observing is something we rarely do! It's not the way the outer world brain operates. So, it gets antsy. As you practice, the boredom will go away and will by replaced by a growing interest. However, if you find yourself getting bored or antsy, consider trying one or all of these classic mindfulness meditations.
Meditation 1: Innervision -- Observe everything inside of you all at once. If you have any mental chatter, let it melt into the larger sensation of your whole inner landscape.
Meditation 2: Observe your Skeleton -- Try to feel every bone and each joint in your body. Let your entire body melt away until feel as if you are a skeleton. (I suggest going to www.zygotebody.com to see excellent 3D renderings of your skeleton.)
Meditation 3: Imagine Yourself Without a Head -- That's the entire meditation. No head equals no thinking. No thinking equals mindfulness. Not for when you're driving. It sounds silly, but it works.