What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of observing life, by observing our own bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, and our life experiences. Not only observing, but observing with the mind of a beginner, not with the mind of an expert. Observing with a childlike curiosity, noticing, discovering, and then reflecting, inquiring, and questioning as a diligent Greek philosopher from times past would, and coming to that state of clearly seeing, understanding, and knowing. A fresh way of living: living mindfully, contemplating life in all its manifestations. Living fully awake, alert, attentive, aware, appreciative, and alive.
Mindful Living is a way of living that liberates us from wrong perceptions. It’s a way of living that allows us to see the bigger picture, to see what is really important, to see beyond the veil of ignorance and delusion; a way of living that leads to wisdom, and the practice of wise assessment, wise discernment, and wise choices that, in turn, lead to liberation, awakening, enlightenment.
The observation of life made me realize that I rarely experienced full contentment. No matter how right things were, I always felt that they were not perfect, that they should and could be improved. There was this hope that something in the future would fulfill this void I felt in my chest and bring me tranquility and peace. What that would be was always unclear. Perhaps the next academic degree, the next job, the next relationship, the next house, the next vacation, perhaps when I achieved fame and fortune. Desires! Desires! Desires! Desires and discontentment! Desires and restlessness! Desires and suffering!
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing… Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day… When you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice is actually fixating on what you lack… This fixation only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be… The more you pursue feeling better all the time the less satisfied you become as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more desperately you want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel regardless of how much money you actually make… The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience… Wanting positive experience is a negative experience. Accepting negative experience is a positive experience.” ~ Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Wanting is disturbing. Accepting is calming.
I kept listening to the misleading promises of happiness in our society and following someone else’s formula for happiness. But I was shooting in the dark, not knowing what would tame my anxiety, what would give me the feeling of fulfillment I so much longed for. There I was, shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the target. Rather than being centered and satisfied, I found myself in this state of imbalance, constantly leaning forward, constantly desiring, hoping that the next thing would placate this sentiment that although things were good, they were not quite right, this subtle feeling in the background that something was wrong. I referred to it as ‘a bug in the system, an undercurrent of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, pain, and dissatisfaction.’ I could hear Mick Jagger singing, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
And when things were good, there was also this fear that something bad was going to happen. Flavio Gikovate, a Brazilian psychotherapist and scholar, lectured extensively on the fear of success, fear of an impending tragedy, fear of losing happiness. He called it, “The Fear when Happiness arrives,” which became the title of one of his books.
It’s not uncommon, when things go well, for our brains to focus on fear rather than gratitude. This brain’s tendency to see the negative is natural; it’s just the way our brains work to protect us from danger. But the good news is that our brains are trainable. We can, through deliberate practice, increase our ability to be aware of those times when fear is irrational, not called for. We can also train to increase our ability to notice the good, savor the good, and absorb the good. I created an acronym to make it easier to remember the practice: NSA. The more I pause to notice, savor, and absorb the good things in my life, the more appreciation and gratitude become my brain’s default operating mode. I focus on gratitude, not fear. I focus on and marvel at the abundance of the Universe. I focus on how blessed I am, how blessed we all are. I focus on this feeling of contentment.
By practicing appreciation, contentment, satisfaction, and gratitude for all that I do, all that I have, and who I am, I feel that I was blessed with plenty, with much more than enough, and as a result of that feeling, I am more generous. And when I am all this — appreciative, content, satisfied, grateful, and generous — I am happy.
Give it a try.
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
– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”
– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”
– “Silent Peace Walk”