We are often mindful in everyday life, but most of the time we are mindful without knowing it. Our mind swings in and out of mindfulness constantly. Sometimes we are mindful, other times not. Non-mindfulness tends to occur when we start thinking.
In the fast-paced, competitive world we live in, there is a huge emphasis on thought and how to think. If you think about what you learnt and the style of teaching in the primary or high school you attended, you are likely to recall emphasis on critical analysis and independent thought. This tends to grow as we enter adulthood, with even more emphasis placed on these skills at university and in starting our career. While this training in thoughts and thinking has many advantages, it does place a lot of emphasis on the importance of thoughts. For many of us, we learn to see world as though those thoughts are reality.
In fact, we often look at the world THROUGH our thoughts. You may have heard of the phase “looking through the world with rose coloured glasses”. Our thinking often influences how we feel, or what colour our glasses are! We might have no worries one day, with the majority of our thoughts being happy and calm. Looking through these kinds of thoughts makes the world seem better and brighter. On another day, our thinking might be more negative and the world seems darker and less optimistic.
We rarely have direct experience with the present moment because we think too much. The key to mindfulness is to look at our present experience in a neutral, non-judgemental manner. We try not to look THROUGH our thinking, but AROUND it. The thoughts are still there, but they are seen as mere thoughts and not reality.