Mindfulness in a Mindless World
In a world that has gone so far out of control many are seeking some comfort in practices of certainty. Many want to have some stability, tradition and thereby peace of mind. Not surprisingly the “good old days” are remembered with relish even if they weren’t “so good” at the time. We, myself included, want some assurance that “all is well.” Wanting simple, direct, irrefutable answers we can begin to blame others when we feel especially unsettled. Since there are few easy answers there are plenty of people and institutions to blame. There is, however, a difference between blaming others and holding them accountable for their actions.
If we are to return some sanity to this world we share we must hold ourselves accountable, develop compassion, exert healthy self-control and become more thoughtful in our words and deeds. Once helpful way of conducting ourselves in the fashion I describe is through “mindfulness.” Through such a practice we enhance our strength and capacity to face our disappointments, fears and anger. I am not describing a religious orientation although some may incorporate mindfulness (for example contemplative prayer) in their spiritual beliefs. I am instead suggesting we learn how to sit quietly in the midst of our many conflicting thoughts and feelings. Rather than rushing to action on the basis of this or that emotion or conclusion we sit in silence paying attention to how our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations shift and change. By noting our breathing and focusing as fully as we are able on the in-breath and the out-breath we can achieve a powerful centeredness and clarity of thought. As the former Catholic priest, Daniel Berrigan used to say, “Don’t just so something, sit there.”
Now, of course if we begin such a practice of mindful breathing we will notice our mind becomes busy and our attention is drawn away from the simple awareness of our breathing. Since we can expect this as the way our mind works we can simply name it as “thinking” and return to our next out breath. Such an attitude is about developing a non-judgmental attitude or “unconditional friendliness” with ourselves.
You, the reader, might be saying at this point that with the troubles so complex, huge and frightening isn’t this practice an avoidance of the responsibility to act in a humane, forceful fashion? Perhaps, but perhaps too, thoughtful action taken from a place of self knowledge and patience may be even more effective. At a minimum it is likely our enemies will be fewer.
This is of course a brief introduction to a well researched topic. The best simple explanation and training in mindfulness can be found in the step-by-step course: Insight Mediation with Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein (Sounds True)
Drop me an email and let me know what you discover.