There is a lot of talk of practicing mindfulness; being present to who you are with, or what you are doing, and observing the self. It is a good practice. I for one spent many years at least semi-asleep, unaware that my behaviors were not by choice but automatic. Certain things automatically made me unhappy or angry or resentful, and bad behaviors followed. With some work I became more self aware, and more able to choose what frame of mind/behavior I will have, especially when confronted with events or people who create disturbance.
For me the key to doing this was following the Niyamas. These are the practices of daily living, and close variations on these are found in all the Holy books, as a prescriptive guide on how to live life. An interpretive and abridged short the list of Niyamas from the Hindu tradition follows here:
Clearness of mind, speech and body. [Attained through practice of Ahimsa; doing no harm to others through action or thoughts, and being truthful]
Contentment, acceptance of oneself and others
Perseverance in one’s purpose – practiced with discipline and austerity
Self reflection for the purpose of self knowledge
Devotion or practice of worship for connection to the eternal consciousness
For me the pathway to mindfulness was practicing these Niyamas, and cleaning up my behaviors within my family and at work. I studied the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras with my yoga teacher Charat, and practiced meditation, fasting, pranayam, bhajan, and while I initially started to practice yoga for the purpose of my health and simple peace of mind, I realized along the way there was much more to learn/practice.
These days my practice is limited, focused mostly on the householder duties or taking care of family and home with gratitude and steadiness. Nonetheless, I am never bored. What I have found is that mindfulness in every task, no matter how ‘small’ or ‘mundane’, is a practice in itself, and has developed my ability to be (content) with what is and what is not, to be able to practice non-attachment, (liberated from those strong feelings of needing control in my case), and continue to be present or mindful almost all the time. For me the gift of presence and mindfulness is having a deep appreciation of life and the people in it. Love and connection to others is incredibly present.