Looking back at my journey, I realize that one of the most important teachings for my spiritual growth was contained in the short essay titled
Thick clouds do not allow us to see the vast sky.
After four weeks of mindfulness practice, one of my students wrote,
There’s an urban legend of five monkeys that, as the story goes, were put inside a cage by a group of scientists. In the middle of the cage the scientists placed a ladder with bananas on its top. Naturally, when the monkeys saw the bananas they started to climb the ladder, but every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the other monkeys with very cold water. After a while, every time a monkey started to climb the ladder, the other monkeys pulled it down and beat it up.
It’s not uncommon for fear to arise when things are just fine. Yes, everything is OK, everything is perfect, but we are not tranquil: inside us there is this disturbing fear that something bad is about to happen.
Flavio Gikovate, a Brazilian psychotherapist and scholar, lectured extensively on the irrational fear felt by many that when everything is well, or when everything is about to be well, a tragedy will strike. Many people are unaware that they may be afraid
Mindfulness has several meanings and can be defined in many ways. Here I elaborate on mindfulness as a training that leads to a particular way of living.
Mindfulness is a practice that develops present-moment awareness. It is the practice of focusing attention and observing what is going on in the present moment, by observing our own bodies, emotions, thoughts, experiences, and life in general. Not only observing, but observing without interfering; observing without the presumption that we already know, and without hurriedly rushing to conclusions; observing with the curiosity of a child, or, as we say, with the mind of a beginner, not the mind of an expert. This manner of observing is one that allows us to discover the new in the old, the unusual in the usual, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Learning to focus and observe is just the beginning of the mindfulness practice. What follows focusing and observing is inquiring and reflecting as a diligent Greek philosopher from times past would. This practice of questioning and surmising has the potential to liberate us from wrong perceptions and bring us to that state of lucidity marked by clearly seeing, clearly understanding, and clearly knowing.
Dear fellow explorers,
I would like to encourage you to continue practicing mindfulness.
I begin by asking you not to wait for perfect conditions to meditate. We all want secluded and silent environments to practice, but the majority of the time these peaceful surroundings will not be available. Most likely, conditions will never be as perfect as you would like them to be. But don’t allow this to prevent you from meditating regularly. Remember: “If you can’t do it perfectly, do it imperfectly. Just do it anyway.” Don’t have twenty minutes? What about twenty seconds? Can’t find a place inside your home? What about outside? No excuses! Just do it! Change the way you approach your desire for perfection and develop the ability to say to yourself, “Everything is perfect.
I’ve heard Dan Harris, the author of 10% Happier, explain what Mindfulness Meditation is many times in his podcast. He usually begins his explanation by saying that mindfulness meditation is the practice of cultivating meta-awareness. I like his explanation a lot. Here is what I captured from listening to him in the episode 194 of his podcast. This is my attempt to capture and respectfully transcribe his ideas, but please be advised that what follows is not a word-by-word transcription of what he said.
Mindfulness meditation is the cultivation of meta-awareness, the knowing that you know, the knowing that you are thinking. As a species, we are classified as homo sapiens sapiens, the one who thinks and knows he or she thinks.
The observation of life made me realize that I rarely experienced full contentment. No matter how wonderful my life was, I always felt that something was not quite right, that something was missing. I lived with the hope that something in the future would come about and fulfill this void I felt. But what would
I always come back to the saying, “It’s not difficult to be mindful. Difficult is to remember to be mindful.”