How Mindfulness Can Help You to Live in the Present: Rev. Takafumi Kawakami at TEDxKyoto (Transcript)

So how many of you have found the secret to success and happiness? Hmm… But we all know what it is, don’t we? As great Zen masters teach, it’s staying connected with our smartphone. But do these distractions really make us effective or make us happier? Or in this case, maybe burned out.

So today, together, right here, let’s take a step to a more mindful life. Mindfulness has been a part of Buddhist traditions for many centuries. It’s a practice and a way of thinking that help us be present with our experience in a nonjudgmental way.

So, where are your thoughts right now? I hope your mind is here. However, most of the time, our mind is somewhere else. It is somewhere in the past or in the future. So we suffer more because we’re either stuck on something that happened in the past or worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.

So if you are present, you are free from such suffering. But also, your action at the present moment can create your past and determine your future. So that’s why being in the present is very powerful. Also it’s important to keep your objective point of view.

Because the main source of suffering is your subjective point of view. So we judge something to be good or bad. But we are just comparing it with some ideal situation. So if you are nonjudgmental, or if you can keep your objective point of view, you can reduce your suffering as well. The main practice of mindfulness is meditation.

Meditation is good for conditioning you to be more mindful and nonjudgmental. So let’s try meditation right now. Sit up straight, and close your eyes, and inhale slowly for five seconds. And exhale slowly for ten seconds or even longer. (Exhale) (Inhale) (Exhale). Try to feel how the air is entering your body and exiting your body.

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(Exhale) (Inhale) (Exhale). Just feel your breathing. So how do you feel right now? Lately, this ancient Buddhist practice is changing. Actually, personally I can see the changes at my temple. I’ve started having more corporate and business school groups in my meditation classes. In fact, various corporations like Google, LinkedIn, Ford Motors and more, they are using meditation as a part of their corporate wellness programs.

Because neuroscience has helped us to understand how meditation can influence our brain and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ consists of six elements: “self-awareness,” “self-control,” “social awareness,” “social management,” “attention,” and “outlook.” Many studies have shown that regular practice of meditation can increase the activity and mass of the region of the brain associated with emotional intelligence. Especially, if you can improve your self-control and attention, you won’t be disturbed, and you can pay undivided attention to what you are doing at a certain moment.

Also, relaxation is a key to being more mindful. When you are relaxing, actually, a part or region of your brain associated with attention and self-control, their activities increase. Actually, the oxygen consumption of the brain gets low. You are relaxing. As you can see on this graph, when you sleep six hours, you are really relaxing. But when you do 20 minutes of mediation, the oxygen consumption level goes down to the same level as when you sleep six hours, so that means you are really relaxing.

Also the carbon dioxide level of the brain increases if you do meditation for more than 20 minutes. The increase of the carbon dioxide level in your brain stimulates your brain stem. And your brain starts releasing serotonin. The serotonin is the neurotransmitter that further relaxes us so you have a better self-control skill and attention. That’s why meditation is an effective way to be more mindful.

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So now, you are ready to be more mindful. Regular practice of meditation can relax you more and improve your attention and self-control. So that you can experience each moment of your life fully and mindfully. As Buddhist teachings tell us, everything is impermanent. Time keeps moving forward, not backward.

So let’s not miss any precious moments with our beloved ones. Actually, this is my daughter. When this picture was taken, she was two years old. Now she is three and a half. She is quite a handful. But she always makes me aware how powerful it is to be present in that moment. Your past and your future depend on the present moment.

And that moment is now.

 

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