letting mindfulness find you

It can be helpful to pay deeper attention to the experience of "waking up" from a period of being lost in thought, both in formal practice and in daily life.  Once noticing that we've been sort of out-to-lunch mentally, we may immediately jump to the thought "I'm going to try to be more mindful now". That thought can often be accompanied by a subtle or not so subtle feeling of failure or disappointment, and it may well be that both that thought and the attending feeling can both arise without our actually bringing true mindfulness to them.  

This pattern paradoxically serves as a springboard for more periods of mindlessness!  It's very easy for our intention to cultivate mindfulness to turn into a imagined future state that we are trying to "get" or "be".  So failing to "get" or "be" that imagined thing is a cause for being dissatisfied with what's really happening now.  This can seem like we are trapped in a loop with no exit.  Of course, in formal practice we can "force" our attention back to the breath, even if the attitude in the mind is one of dissatisfaction.  Doing that may have some benefit, such as building a little more strength of attention, but it's very tiring, and actually not conducive to developing mindfulness is in its truest sense.  In daily life, we are unlikely to have access to that brute force strategy, anyway.  So what can we do?

One approach is to put less emphasis on your intention to be mindful in future.  Instead, put a greater emphasis on setting an intention to be fully aware and interested about the experience of waking up; that is, the experience of present moment awareness arising.  Luckily for us, this is a natural occurrence we all experience: sooner or later, we become aware that we are aware.  One of my teachers once referred to this approach as "letting mindfulness find you".  Once this awareness has returned, really explore it, notice how the mind and body feel.  Notice what's actually happening in your sensory experience.  Reflect that this present moment awareness is a temporary state, just like any other, and renew your intention to be fully aware of this awareness whenever it arises.  See how this impacts the frequency or continuity of mindfulness you experience.