Mindfulness: Technique or a Way of Being
From Ayrton Senna, as presented in Grand Prix People by Gerald Donaldson.
“When I am competing against the watch and against other competitors, the feeling of expectation, of getting it done and doing the best and being the best, gives me a kind of power that, some moments when I am driving, actually detaches me completely from anything else as I am doing it…corner after corner, lap after lap. I can give you a true example I experienced and can relate it to you…
“Monte Carlo, ’88, the last qualifying session. I was already on pole and I was going faster and faster. One lap after the other, quicker, and quicker, and quicker. I was at one stage just on pole, then by half a second, and then one second…and I kept going. Suddenly, I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And I suddenly realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously.
“I was kind of driving it by instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel, not only the tunnel under the hotel, but the whole circuit for me was a tunnel. I was just going, going – more, and more, and more, and more. I was way over the limit but still able to find even more. Then, suddenly, something just kicked me. I kind of woke up and I realized that I was in a different atmosphere than you normally are. Immediately my reaction was to back off, slow down. I drove back slowly to the pits and I didn’t want to go out any more that day. “It frightened me because I realized I was well beyond my conscious understanding. It happens rarely, but I keep these experiences very much alive in me because it is something that is important for self-preservation.”
When Senna drove, he was not operating within his mind, watching, calculating, strategizing, reacting and responding, deciding and second guessing, yearning and doubting, efforting and working. All of those things go on in the mind. Senna had gone beyond it. In fact, so far beyond it that in that race in 1988 in Monaco he was so far ahead that his pit crew told him to slow down. It took him out of the “zone” he was in and he duly crashed.
When Senna drove, he could feel everything, the car, the road, each and every bend and camber change, the entire circuit. His awareness extended out so far, he could feel everything to the point where he was creating the reality that unfolded as his race. He said once, “Sometimes I can feel God”.
Now we all have our different beliefs about God, or about higher powers. None of that really matters to this conversation. What I am more interested in is the appearance that Senna’s “Being” was driving the car, fully connected to everything, second after second after second. In that presence, he could feel the outer extremities of all of the limitations that might see his car spin or miss a corner. No calculation necessary. It all just unfolds in accordance with his intention.
So I wonder. Is this a gift that Senna was lucky enough to have? Or is it a natural human skill that we have lost because we have become far too identified with our minds. I get a sense that this is the state that Tolle and co are trying to describe to us. Of course, those of us who read this material are likely to then imagine a concept of what that must be like and then try to emulate what we have imagined. In these moments we are no further away from being trapped in a mind that we were when we first picked up the book. The mind is so clever and tricky.
In meditation, we learn about discovering the witness viewpoint, that viewpoint, probably our beingness, that can watch independent of mind; that can see what the mind is doing and actually have some influence over the mind’s activity. Many people work to develop an ability to remain in this viewpoint for as much of their time as possible, to watch their mind and be more aware of what it is doing. This practice of being much more aware of the mind and noticing what it is thinking and intending, gives us a chance to intervene and set the mind on a better path. This practice is called being Mindful.
Mindfulness can extend to becoming more aware of what is going on around us. It can lead to more harmony in our world and to less mistakes. But, it is still light years from the places Senna experienced.
I present a viewpoint that perhaps in some ways, Mindfulness training, while well intended and excellent for starting a person down a path of greater self-awareness, might also be the start of a trip down a blind alley, especially if one believes it to be the end point of their spiritual evolution. I say this because I believe that mindfulness training tends to be more about managing the mind as opposed to transcending the mind, and integrating those things that keep it agitated and unwieldy.
When we truly move beyond the mind and stablise in the viewpoint of higher self, the mind then becomes a tool that we can use deliberately. When we are not using it, it sits quiet and still, at peace. Many do say that the greatest of life’s gifts is genuine Peace of Mind.
This state of quiet mind and a fully awakened beingness, enlightenment, can be created in about 9 days.