Can mindfulness exist in non secular environments as well as secular?
At first glance it’s easy to assume that happiness and peacefulness go together….if you have one you have the other. I’ve discovered through my mindfulness practice that they don’t necessarily co exist. I have yet to meet anyone who is happy all the time including myself. Yet, I have met people who have a constant sense of peace all the time including myself.
Prevalent in our culture now are many ways to achieve happiness. I see it being advertised everywhere with approaches to happiness running the full gamut. It’s as if without happiness we are failing as human beings. In fact, the intense striving for happiness is putting enormous pressure on us and ironically making us unhappy. With mindfulness practice we learn how to be present with unhappiness as well as happiness.It is a given that there will be times that we are unhappy and the willingness to be present for that is what brings peace. It doesn’t necessarily bring happiness but the peace certainly makes the unhappiness more tolerable and lays the foundation for the possibility of happiness.
Peace comes with practice. Practicing active acceptance of what is present allows peace to be experienced. We are no longer fighting ourselves and the world to be something other than what we are. Also our ability to let go of each moment clears the way for the acceptance of the next moment. This sequence of acceptance and letting go is what takes away the friction/stress of life. Without that friction we discover that peace was always there just on the other side of the friction. So staying in the present moment gives peace the opportunity to arise in our experience and allows that peace to become the underpinning for all experiences whether they be happy or unhappy.
Our fast paced culture requires multi tasking. It’s known to create stress so here’s how to multi task without creating stress.
Mindfulness is a successful approach to addressing Fear and Stress that has a proven track record of over 2500 studies worldwide over the past 35 years. It is effectively being used in healthcare, the workplace, schools, the military and many other areas of society. In addition to being used as a fear/stress reducer, it is an excellent approach to personal growth and the peak performance experience. Many professional and amateur athletes as well as other performers utilize these skills to enhance their their areas of expertise.
Although Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years it is only the past 35 years where it has been put under the scrutiny of science. These studies and the stories of the thousands of people who are benefiting from the practice has elevated Mindfulness into the awareness of the world.
Mindfulness is the ability to keep one’s attention in the present moment. During times of fear and stress this present moment attention goes away as our biology of fear takes over. We go into fight or flight, the fear of survival intensifies and we disconnect as a way of coping with the fear. When we disconnect from our bodies, thoughts and emotions we lose the ability to act and take care of ourselves effectively. This disconnection can last for years. Mindfulness is the practice of reconnecting to these things in the present moment thereby giving a signal to the body that the danger has passed and we can come out of the fear generated by fight or flight. Once that happens we are able to normalize and then move into peak mode.
An image popped into my mind the other day as I was contemplating how best to explain where mindfulness fits into our lives. The first thing I noticed in the image was the ocean. The ocean is constantly changing. Sometimes the waves are rough and sometimes the water is relatively still with plenty of possibilities in between. As we go deeper into the ocean there is less rocky movement and the deeper currents are much smoother and generally easier to navigate. It’s easy to see the correlation to life here with so much potential for change, activity and movement. The deeper we go into the ocean the more we have access to the smoother currents. They both co exist and are part of the full experience.
Next I noticed the boat which represented to me our awareness/consciousness and sense of being. I noticed that the boat was being tossed about by the waves, completely influenced by the weather and the activity of the ocean. Most of us are in this situation where we are moved from one direction to the next simply because that’s where the ocean and the weather are taking us. Most of us don’t even have an anchor to help still the activity let alone one that is deep enough to connect with the bottom. As I imagined the constant arbitrary moving about I started to actually get dizzy and feel a bit seasick. As I tried to steady myself I noticed that my boat had grown a rudder.
Once I saw the rudder I realized that I could now steer the boat in any direction I wanted and could plot a course that would allow me to navigate the ocean safely. I immediately equated the rudder with my ability to focus my attention to all the motion and make choices as to how and where to navigate the boat so as to maximize my ability to navigate smoothly. The rudder put me in a position to direct my movements rather than have the movements direct me. No longer was I at the mercy of the elements but could now uses the elements to my benefit. The more skilled I got with the rudder the smoother my journey on the ocean became. And so it is with mindfulness where as we become more and more skillful at attending to the present moment we are able to plan and choose our own course on the ocean.
There are many people who feel alone in the midst of the crowd. How can mindfulness relieve that feeling of loneliness?
Compassion is greatly needed in the world of today. It is an integral part of mindfulness practice and is a core quality of the present moment experience.
Life can be a struggle and so often we lose touch with our sense of humor and our ability to have fun and explore. Mindfulness can restore these things and allow our lives to bloom anew.
There is an epidemic of ADD and ADHD affecting both children and adults. Since the core skill of mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment it makes perfect sense that mindfulness is in a unique position to address these issues.
Most of us like our lives to be predictable and follow a linear path. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to line things up that way. In spite of all our efforts, life has a habit of unfolding in ways that continue to surprise us beyond imagination. Mindfulness, like life, follows that same arc of surprise but even more so. When we set out to practice mindfulness it’s as if we are fertilizing our growth and experiencing the greenhouse effect of that fertilizer, light, warmth and water.
When I began practicing I assumed there would be a slow gradual growth, which there was….something I could control with structured practice and discipline. It didn’t take long to figure out that in spite of my well planned practice and discipline, my slow gradual growth often took turns in the road that were completely unforeseen. It took me a long time to get used to the idea of having my life peppered with surprises and growing in new ways. In fact, I still get unsettled from time to time with the turn of events (inner and outer) that seem to come out of nowhere and make no sense whatsoever.
I have come to a point where I expect the unexpected. Actually it goes beyond that. To expect the unexpected still involves expectations so I have taken the next step to where I have let go of all expectations. I now welcome surprises. That letting go of expectations is very freeing and allows for entry into the present moment….the essential experience of mindfulness.