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Mental Wellness

Mindfulness Can Get You There

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“It takes courage to let go of habits and beliefs championed by our parents and those we respect, but we must if we are to ever get close to a mindfulness practice.”

Politics and current events aside, I have come to a conclusion. Until our world gets to a point of empathetic mindfulness, which is the cause of loving friendliness, we are simply doomed to repeat the silly patterns of the past.

We humans love our ignorance. Our ignorance allows us to have lazy brains that relish the patterns we learned in childhood. We are adults now, responsible for our lives, our actions, our movements, our beliefs, and our ability to love. We have the power to change our path. All the power to change our path is in our actions.

We often let our life story be based on the stories we heard from others. If our parents, peers, and teachers were filled with anger, ignorance, laziness, a belief in scarcity, pessimism, hate, greed, indifference, and just a “life sucks and then we die” attitude, we adopt that mindset as reality. The reality is we can be magnificent, happy, virtuous, successful people. We can be born again.

We can be in control of our life. But we must first realize it’s complicated. Being complicated for most is an excuse to procrastinate. Saying with exhaustion, “This is just too hard,” allows our lazy brain to replay all our childhood and reactive programming that traps us in a cycle. It tells us to give up before we start.

We need to examine our life. G.I. Gurdjieff taught: “Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.” It takes courage to let go of habits and beliefs championed by our parents and those we respect, but we must if we are to ever get close to a mindfulness practice.

Sometimes I think people just want to stay on the quick-fix path of searching for the “esoteric alchemy” to magically blossom their life into the life they think they want. That alchemy exists, but it requires us to live a spiritual life. It calls us to take responsibility for our own lives, and to cast off our past patterns and make choices that feed our souls, allow us to thrive, and are in harmony with living a life of mindful loving friendliness. That begins with motivation, desire, affirmation, intention, and commitment.

We need to know what we want. Then we need to work towards that. So we need a vision of what we want: For example we might place as our intention: “I want to be happy, flourish, thrive, and be an example of loving friendliness so that I am a blessing to all that I meet.” Then we say to our- selves, “Okay, now how do I get there?”

Paul Sutherland suggests for guidance on intention and breaking free of the past, Emmanuel’s Prayer. On goal setting and financial guidance, Virtue of Wealth. Both are available as flipbooks free at paulhsutherland.com. Mindfulness in Plain English is available everywhere and is free online at Vipassana.com.

Professor Anders Ericsson studied the causes of what leads to “objectively reproducible performance” in very successful chess masters, musicians, surgeons, runners, ballerinas, and others. His goal was to tease out the alchemy of their reaching success. He declared it came from what he called “deliberate practice,” which requires intention, focus, introspection, or a feedback loop to know how you are doing.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers oversimplified his finding to basically say you need 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. You need a lot more than time. You need a teacher, introspection, a way to measure advancement, and a commitment to getting somewhere.

When I teach meditation, I explain the need for guidance and a teacher with the Zen proverb, “You can milk a cow’s horn with great diligence and no matter how hard you try you will not get milk.” A lot of meditators will spend hours sitting but get little benefit because they are in effect not advancing.

I once taught a tortured version of Vipassana meditation. In each class I explained Vipassana mindfulness was about all-day mindfulness. The goal was getting the student to a place where they were not bounced around in the world of: This is good. This is bad. This is neutral. In other words, not bouncing from avoiding suffering to seeking happy events or craving happy experiences. We often live between those two extremes and most of our life is in the mundane living we do, and that is where mindfulness comes in.

We need to find it interesting to feel the breath as we breathe in the smell of the bathroom, or the garbage we take out, or the guy next to us on the bus. We need to say it is interesting and kind of humorous, maybe, how annoyed we can get when our children fight.

Life is lived in the seemingly mundane chatter of a silly conversation, minor annoyances, and boring activities that we strive to avoid. I do believe a contemplation practice like Gurdjieff’s, combined with meditation and mindfulness training, are key components to getting on the spiritual path and living a happy life where we are flourishing and infinitely resilient.

I know it sounds complicated. It is complicated, but really at this exact moment it is simply about asking yourself, How am I going to choose to live the next moment of my life?

Your answer needs to come from a place of what you want your life to be. Mindfulness can get you there.