Mindful Living

I always come back to the saying, “It’s not difficult to be mindful. Difficult is to remember to be mindful.” To live mindfully is to live a life with plenty of mindful moments, moments when I remember to purposely pay attention and observe whatever may be happening in the present moment with calm, interest, openness, and curiosity.

I know that although observing the here-now is fundamental for mindful living, it is not enough. Living mindfully invites investigation and reflection on what is being observed. It is an engagement with the present moment through the philosophical method of questioning, learning, and knowing. It is a vibrant and exciting way of living that fulfills my aspiration to explore and inspire.

I know from experience that in order to live more mindfully, I have to deliberately increase the amount of mindful moments in my days. I know it is difficult to be mindful all the time, but I also know that it is possible, through training and practice, to increase the number of times I remember to be mindful.

Mindful moments are those when I remember to embody the qualities of six words that begin with the letter A: awake, alert, attentive, aware, appreciative, and alive.

It all begins with being awake, meaning that I am not sleepwalking through life. I am not on automatic pilot mode. Things are not happening totally on their own without my conscious participation. I am not going through life mindlessly repeating negative patterns of behavior that may be degrading the quality of my life. I am engaged with the present moment, deliberately slowing down and purposely focusing my attention on the here-now, just observing with openness and curiosity what is going on in this present moment, without rushing to add a commentary, an opinion, or a judgment.

The place is here. The time is now. I am here, now. I am present. I am alert and attentive. I am noticing what is going on. I am aware of what is happening. I process events, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations in my body with clarity. I am able to see and perceive things clearly. I reflect. I ponder. I understand. I have insights. I see all the beauty of this world. I appreciate and am astounded by the magic, mystery and miracles that surround me. I experience energy, vigor, and vitality. I am able to pay attention, observe, notice, and discern with a clear and sharp mind. I am in command. I am making wise decisions that improve the quality of my life. I am awake, alert, attentive, aware, and appreciative of life. I am fully alive. I am living mindfully, and this is such an empowering feeling.

It is clear to me how our choices affect our lives. Living mindfully involves being a good observer, seeing clearly, making wise assessments, using wise discernment, and making wise decisions. That’s why focusing on the present moment is so important. Because it is in this moment that I choose, and these choices are the ones that ultimately affect the quality of my life.

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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our responses. In our responses lie our growth and our freedom.” ~ Viktor Frankl, (attribution)

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ~ Viktor Frankl

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” ~ Viktor Frankl


 

Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect and write, and who not only aspires to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He leads mindfulness silent retreats and organizes Silent Peace Walks. He lives in Florida, USA. Join his Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Living sessions at Yoga Source in Coral Springs (Sundays at 9:00 AM) and at Shiwa Yoga in Deerfield Beach (Thursdays at 6:30 AM and 12:30 PM)


 

Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store

http://peacefulways.org/store/

Book Cover Image

– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”

Pay Attention Book Cover

– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”

Silent_Peace_Walk_Cover_for_Kindle

– “Silent Peace Walk”

www.PieroFalci.com

www.SilentPeaceWalk.org

www.PeacefulWays.org

Go to the Silence, Change the World

“Our meditation practice is not selfish. We don’t practice for ourselves alone. Our practice benefits the entire world. As we change, the world changes. Our practice makes us more compassionate, more generous, more patient, more loving, more caring human beings. Our practice is a powerful form of activism that makes the world a better place.” 

These are words I say to my fellow meditators at the end of the meditations I lead. And I believe in them. I really do.

Yes, I teach mindfulness, a millenary practice that helps reduce anxiety and stress. This is good, isn’t it? Calmer and less reactive people are better for everyone, right?

Or not?

Well, we have to consider that we live in a violent environment of oppression and exploitation of the many by the few. And, yes, as many critics of mindfulness point out, mindfulness can be used by those in positions of power to make citizens in general, and workers in particular, less combative, and more docile, obedient, and productive.

But who can say that mindfulness is not also allowing people to see reality more clearly? Who can say that mindfulness is not making the hidden forms of oppression and exploitation more visible? Who can say that mindfulness is not challenging meaningless living, waking up a crowd of sleepwalkers from the vain promises of achieving happiness through consumerism?  Who can say that mindfulness is not making us feel, in a very deep way, that we are all in this together, and that we are both oppressed and oppressors? Who can say that that mindfulness is not augmenting the contingent of wiser activists for social justice and the preservation of our planet?

The practice of mindfulness does not make us indifferent to the suffering in the world, or oblivious to injustices. I argue that it has the opposite effect: mindfulness practice makes us more sensitive and compassionate. It makes us more aware of the suffering of others, of the damaging impact our wasteful way of living is having on the planet and its inhabitants, and of the perilous path toward extinction our civilization is on. The higher consciousness that arises through mindfulness practice activates in us the desire to engage in wise actions that can bring about a better world for everyone.

Mindfulness makes us very aware  of our interconnection and interrelation. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “We are not separate. We are inextricably interrelated. The rose is the garbage, the soldier is the civilian, the criminal is also the victim. ‘This is like this, because that is like that.’ No one among us has clean hands. None of us can claim that the situation is not our responsibility. The child who is forced to work as a prostitute is that way because of the way we are. The refugees who are forced to live in camps have to live like that because of the way we live. The arms dealers do their business so that our economies can continue to grow and they can benefit. Wealth and poverty, the affluent society and the poor society, inter-are. The wealth of our society is made of the poverty of the other.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Other Shore

I, like so many others, believe that we need to change the ways we see life, the ways we understand the world, and the ways we treat each other and all sentient beings. The way we live on this planet needs to change, and the practice of mindfulness meditation, as well as other similar practices, by changing our paradigms, is the best way I know to promote effective, healthy change.

It is clear to me that it is completely possible for everyone to have a good life on this planet, but in order for this to happen, a change in the ways we currently live is necessary. The process of change starts with the realization that we, human beings, were the ones who created the way we are currently living, and that we detain the power to organize ourselves differently and change everything if necessary. In order to do so, we should assume a beginner’s mind — a mind not constrained by preconceived ideas and beliefs; a mind open to entertain infinite possibilities — and while looking at everything anew, ask ourselves, “This is a beautiful planet. This is a place of abundance. There’s more than enough here for everyone. How can we organize ourselves in such ways that everyone can have a dignified existence, while respecting all beings and preserving the health of the planet in the process?” I am convinced that it is completely possible for us to organize ourselves to live on this planet in wiser, more supportive, and less violent ways.

Each one of us finds his or her own way of responding to the suffering of the world. There are innumerable forms of expressing compassion and working to improve the lives of the downtrodden. We, all of us, are unique in the combination of talents and skills we came to this world with, and it is up to each one of us to discover how we will bestow the gifts that we were given in order to alleviate the suffering of others. Some will heal. Some will feed. Some will shelter. Some will teach. Some will invent. Some will make themselves available to listen and comfort those who are hurting. Some will be called to show up to protest inhumane practices, let their voices be heard, and not only precipitate change of morally wrong and unacceptable policies and practices, but also let the oppressed know that they have not been forgotten. While some will actively engage in social activism for change, others will meditate and live mindfully knowing that their practice, by transforming them, will, directly and indirectly, benefit all sentient beings. This being my preferential choice at this stage of my life, many people challenge me, saying, “What are doing? Your mindfulness practice is not changing anything. You are not helping anyone.”

I am convinced that the practice of meditation, and of other similar disciplines of introspection and inner exploration in silence, stillness, and solitude, have a huge impact in the betterment of society. By getting to know oneself more intimately, by developing a better understanding of life, by becoming more aware of the suffering of others, by becoming more compassionate and generous, meditators wisely engage in the work of restoring Heaven on Earth, and have an effective impact. Like the ripples created on the surface of the water when a stone is dropped on a pond, so too selfless acts of kindness create ripples that travel far and wide and bless others with love.

When people accuse my meditation practice of being pointless and ineffective, I think of the impact the Buddha and Jesus had on the world; two meditators who dedicated their lives to their own awakening and the  awakening of others, and whose teachings, after millennia, still influence and benefit us to this day. The exemplary lives they lived inspire us to do no harm; to do good, be good, and savor the good. They inspired and continue to inspire multitudes of social activists. To say that meditation doesn’t change anything nor help anyone is, in my opinion, a misconception. Lasting change cannot really occur without individuals changing their perception of what’s within them and around them.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Through the practice of meditation we become more compassionate. We reach the understanding that no life matters less than any other. The Dalai Lama said, “I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness.”  Meditation practice makes it easier to smile and treat each person we meet as an old friend. We become sensitive to the suffering in the world and we let go of any impulses to put anyone down, replacing those impulses with the desire to bring everyone up.

“Here’s an ancient truth about being human: we cannot give gifts to others that we are unable to give to ourselves! That’s why “inner work” done well is never selfish. Ultimately, it will benefit other people.” ~ Parker Palmer

Practicing meditation is like going home, going to a safe refuge where you center yourself, find balance, and cultivate love. It is from this place of peace that you then come out into the world to distribute — calmly, compassionately, and generously — the love and peace you have gathered.

I say to the detractors of mindfulness, “One thing does not exclude the other. Practice meditation and work for social justice, and see what happens. Go to the silence and be surprised by the changes in the ways you see and behave. Knowing that the most effective nonviolent civil disobedience initiatives — the ones that brought about lasting social change — were inspired and carried out by those who had deep disciplines of introspection and inner work, choose to be like those who have used the formula effectively. Be like the Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, Gandhi, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others. Go to silence, know yourself, and then come out to work calmly within your circle of influence and change the world. Don’t get discouraged.”

I always remember that we, practitioners of mindfulness, are bringers of peace and sanity during moments of turmoil, and that’s why the practice is so important. Again, our practice is not selfish; we don’t practice for ourselves alone. Our formal meditation practice and our commitment to living mindfully is a powerful form of service to others. I tell my students, as an encouragement, that “In a boat full of fearful and agitated people, one sane, calm, and steady-minded person can find the way through the fog and the storm, through the winds and the waves, and sail the boat to a safe harbor, saving not only his or her life, but also everyone else’s lives. Practice mindfulness. The world desperately needs more steady-minded individuals.”

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“May you have the serenity to accept what you cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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“You may not be able to do much about the great problems of the world or to change the situation you are in, but if you can awaken the eternal beauty and light of your soul, you will bring light wherever you go. The gift of life is given to us for ourselves and also to bring peace, courage, and compassion to others.”  ~ John O’Donohue

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“Of course, I value independence, national and personal. But I also value collaboration because little that’s good has ever been achieved without it. I, for one, would be utterly lost without the many people who’ve invested time, energy and love in me.” ~ Parker Palmer

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“In general, mindfulness begins with one-pointed focus on where we are and what’s going on inside and out. Over time, though, this will bleed into a wider awareness that sees connections and explores what drives us and what effects we’re having on the world around us and the people, plants, and animals in it. It brings us into direct contact with our values, and the fundamental aspiration all of us have to make a better world, the part of us that cares.” ~ Barry Boyce, Editor-in-Chief of Mindful and Mindful.org in “Is Your Mindfulness Practice a Political Statement? Mindfulness brings us into direct contact with our values and our desire to create a better world.”

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Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect and write, and who not only aspires to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches Mindfulness Meditation and Mindful Living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He leads mindfulness silent retreats and organizes Silent Peace Walks. He lives in Florida, USA. Join his Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Living sessions at Yoga Source in Coral Springs (Sundays at 9:00 AM) and at Shiwa Yoga in Deerfield Beach (Thursdays at 6:30 AM and 12:30 PM)


 

Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store

http://peacefulways.org/store/

Book Cover Image

– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”

Pay Attention Book Cover

– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”

Silent_Peace_Walk_Cover_for_Kindle

– “Silent Peace Walk”

www.PieroFalci.com

www.SilentPeaceWalk.org

www.PeacefulWays.org

Let it Be

A lot of stress derives from things we have no control over. This song reminds us that many times the wisest response is simply to let it be.

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When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be, There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
Let It Be lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

We Are Not Who We Think We Are

Have you noticed how many times you did what was convenient for you without regard for the inconvenience you created for others? I have. And when I feel tempted to criticize others, and what I consider to be their selfish actions, I pause, look back at my own life, and let the urge go by saying to myself, “I’ve been there and I’ve done that.” 

Sometimes we do what is convenient for us unconsciously, completely unaware of how what we do affect others, while other times we do it consciously, by choice. But since we live in community, we are called to tame our selfish instincts. We are called to share the world with others.  We are called to remind that we are not the owners of this world, and the attitude contained in the saying “This is my world, and you just happen to live in it,” does not apply.

Have you noticed how often we are the main characters of the stories we tell? Have you noticed how often we are the protagonists of the movies that run in the movie theaters of our heads? Well, perhaps it’s time to consider that we are not the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Perhaps it’s time to suspect that we are not those special and remarkable human beings that we believe we are, and that, as matter of fact, we are not superior to anyone else. Perhaps it’s time to entertain the possibility that we got it all wrong and that we are not who we think we are.

Why don’t we pause, put aside our preconceived ideas about ourselves, and do an honest effort to see ourselves as others see us? It’s not an easy task for sure, but if we try we may be surprised with the realization that we are not those selfless, generous, and caring persons that we imagine we are. We may come to the realization that, in fact, we are very critical and judgmental, and be surprised by our inability to empathize. It may be a revelation to us how completely oblivious we are of how our egotistical behaviors affect others. The truth is that our self-centeredness makes it extremely hard for us to see how others see us, and realize how what we say and do affects others.

We all have blind spots. We all have shortcomings. We all have acted in selfish ways, unaware of how our behavior made others uncomfortable or, even, how it wounded them. Therefore, developing self-awareness is one of the most important things we can do. Learning to observe ourselves, noticing our thoughts, words and actions, while developing the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s position, is a priceless skill. This self-reflective practice allows us to get to know ourselves and others better, and grow in compassion, kindness, patience, and generosity.

How others see you?

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We have to be cautious with our views and beliefs. Many times we believe we are better, but other times we believe we are worse than the persons we actually are.

Someone approached the Dalai Lama and asked, “I don’t feel worthwhile as a person. How can I work on this?” The Dalai Lama answered, “You should not be discouraged. Your feeling ‘I am of no value’ is wrong, absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself.”

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“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, on the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination (April 4, 1968)

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I hope we may be able to suspect that we are not who we think we are. I hope we may be able to get a glimpse of how others see us. I hope we may be able to get a better idea of who we really are, and perhaps come to the realization that in the grand scheme of things, we are insignificant.

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“It’s just a thought. Thoughts are not real. Thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts think themselves. I am not my thoughts. The thought of a thing is not that thing.”

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Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.


 

Take a look at these books at the Peaceful Ways online store

http://peacefulways.org/store/

Book Cover Image

– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”

Pay Attention Book Cover

– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”

Silent_Peace_Walk_Cover_for_Kindle

– “Silent Peace Walk”

www.PieroFalci.com