Monday, September 25, 2006

Mindfulness and Experience

Therefore I tell you:
Be humble, be harmless,
Have no pretension,
Be upright, forbearing,
Serve your teacher
In true obedience,
Keeping the mind
And the body in cleanness,
Tranquil, steadfast,
Master of ego,
Standing apart
From the things of the senses,
Free from self;
Aware of the weakness
In mortal nature. [1]

There are many ways in which to live our lives. We can coast through, unmindful, and wake up on our 70th birthday and ask, "Where did my life go?" Another option is to train in mindfulness. But of what benefit is all that hard work? Why not just assume we're saved in the long haul, and go about our merry way? I answer that to avoid mindfulness training is to go through your life thinking about, feeling about, and never experiencing. If someone explains to you what an orange tastes like, that might be interesting, but you still don't truly know what an orange tastes like until you, personally, taste one.

Mindfulness training is like getting an infinite return on your investment. Training to be mindful of each and every thought, each and every feeling, each and every action, knowing their true nature, is hard, and sometimes frustrating. But every now and then you have a moment in which every ounce of your being in present in the moment. You see your surroundings, you hear your surroundings. You feel your surroundings. You fully experience your experience, not just think about it, or feel about it. And in that moment, you know that everything is perfect as it is, because it is as it is, now. That moment is the greatest moment you will ever experience. That experience is an infinite return on your effort. And the more you train, the more you are blessed with these moments.

1-Minute Contemplation: Notice how quickly you think or feel about things instead of experiencing them. Look at a flower. Almost instantaneously for most of us, we start making associations, or remember the roles roses have played in your life. But we almost never just see the rose in front of us—not some idealized rose with attached memories or concepts—but the actual rose right in front of our faces. Just see the flower that presents itself to you.

[1] Bhagavad-Gita, Trans. by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. 2002.

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ozymandiaz said...

Let us not forget
Mindfulness offers us the only true freedom in this life. So often we react to situations unmindful that we have a choice, and thus consciously choose our action. So much suffering is caused by simply reacting. Not only does it open a path to joy but also greater health benefits as stress is diminished and stress is a catalyst for nearly all ills.

Great work.

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