Fear When Happiness Arrives

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 of achieving their dreams, having success, and experiencing happy moments, because they are already anticipating the pain they will experience in the event they lose all that.

Have you ever noticed the sneaky fear that arises when we are about to reach our goals, or when we have reached them and are experiencing success and happiness? Dr. Gikovate alerted us that due to this fear many times we sabotage ourselves and bring our projects to failure, a dangerous tendency that becomes more present as we get closer to reaching our goals.

It’s not uncommon, when things are going well, for our brains to focus on the negative rather than the positive. And we have to understand that the brain’s tendency to pay more attention to what is negative is natural; it’s just the way our brains work and have worked throughout the ages to protect us, humans, from danger.

But the good news is that our brains are trainable.

Yes. Our brains are trainable!

We can, through deliberate mindfulness practice, increase our ability to be aware of those times when fear is not called for. We can also train ourselves to increase our ability to notice the good and take it in, what has the power to tame fear.

I created an acronym to make this practice easier to remember: NASA. Not the National Air and Space Administration of the space programs and astronauts. I’m talking about the initials of four words: Notice, Appreciate, Savor, and Absorb. NASA. The more I pause to notice, appreciate, savor, and absorb the good things in my life, the more gratitude becomes my brain’s default operating mode. I become more focused on gratitude than fear. I focus on the abundance of the Universe and marvel at it. I am more optimistic and less pessimistic. I focus on how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, and feel content, satisfied, and happy.

N.A.S.A. I invite you to 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 (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 AM)


 

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

 

What is Mindfulness?

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. We become better able to see beyond the veil of ignorance and delusion, and see things as they really are, see the impermanent and ever-changing nature of everything, and realize that everything that arises also passes away.

“Mindfulness is a way of training yourself to become aware of things as they really are.” ~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Practice allows us to notice those times when we are being tossed around by unhealthy thoughts and emotions — when the mind is lost in desire, aversion, regret, and anguish, ruminating the past and worrying about the future — and equips us to redirect our attention to the here-now and from unwholesome thoughts to wholesome ones.

So, what follows the practice of diligent observation and reasoning is wisdom, is seeing what is wholesome and what is not; seeing cause and effect and learning what the consequences of our actions are. From realizing that thoughts are insubstantial and ephemeral; from learning that we are not our thoughts; from discerning which thoughts bring about affliction and suffering and which bring about tranquility and joy; from seeing what is really important, and distinguishing what we can from what we cannot change, we can begin to be more selective, and choose which thoughts we should give our attention to and which ones we should dismiss.

As we learn to respond mindfully instead of reacting mindlessly, or, in other words, as we learn to take time to ponder before choosing what to say and do, we become better able to create peaceful and joyful lives. In a nutshell, the practice of wise assessment, wise discernment, and wise choices leads to liberation, awakening, and enlightenment.

Living mindfully is a fresh way of living in which we engage with life fully awake, alert, attentive, aware, and appreciative. By living in such a way, the suffering that exists in the world becomes more evident, and we feel called to engage in the work of promoting justice and enhancing the quality of life for all sentient beings. Throughout this process we experience, in a very natural and organic way, the growth in us of the qualities of tolerance, acceptance, hospitality, solidarity, compassion, kindness, and generosity. We become less selfish and more selfless. We become more inclined to cooperate than to compete with others.

Living with more gratitude, ease, joy, and aliveness encapsulates what mindful living is.


 

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 (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 AM)


 

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

Advice to my fellow explorers

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. It is perfect, just the way it is. It is always perfect.”

Meditate regularly and continue developing your ability to focus your attention, noticing and investigating what is going on in the present moment with curiosity. The more you practice formal mindfulness meditation exercises, the better equipped you will be to live mindfully. Remember that we don’t meditate to become better meditators, but to become better human beings. We practice not only to enhance the quality of our lives, but also the quality of the lives of those we come in contact with.

Be mindful of your body, your mind, your feelings, and of your life in general.

Be aware of your body when you are sitting, lying down, walking, and standing, noticing physical sensations and mindfully observing your body breathing.

Be mindful of your mind, contemplating your mind states: your thoughts and emotions. Be mindful of the states of wanting, aversion, restlessness, sleepiness, and doubt. Notice the workings of your judgmental mind and of the times when you are comparing and contrasting, categorizing and classifying, complaining and competing, criticizing and condemning. Develop the ability to see thoughts and emotions for what they are: thoughts are just thoughts; emotions are just emotions. And recognize that your brain is an “independent thought-producing and emotion-producing machine.” Therefore, realize that you are not your thoughts and emotions. Thoughts and emotions are just visitors. They come and go. You don’t need to be schlepped around or owned by them. You don’t need to act impulsively on the bad suggestions that may arise. You are independent and free.

Be mindful of your daily activities, noticing the times when you are labeling your experiences as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Be aware of the instances when you are engaged in the process of liking or disliking, approving or disapproving.

Examine your beliefs and explore new ideas. Be ready to consciously unlearn what you have unconsciously learned, and let go of what does not serve you anymore.

Investigate and explore life with curiosity as a way of growing in understanding and wisdom. Practice seeing the new in the old, the unusual in the usual, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Realize the impermanence and constant transformation of everyone and everything, witnessing the unstoppable cycle of birth, growth, decay, death, and transformation. Develop the understanding that life is manifesting through you, but that you don’t own this life, this body, this lived experience. Notice how clinging brings about suffering, and remember that nothing whatsoever should be clung to as I, me, or mine. Let it go and let it be.

Realize that experiencing suffering and dissatisfaction in life is a given. Notice that the lack of awareness of the craving for sensual delight, craving to be someone, and the craving to feel nothing are all causes of suffering. Notice that greater awareness of the existence of these cravings lessens suffering. Work diligently to identify, understand, and tame desires.

Practice to pause and augment the time between stimulus and response, developing the ability to be comfortable in the middle of uncomfortable situations, accepting with serenity the things you cannot change. By doing so you will diminish the number of mindless reactions and increase the number of mindful responses, which all in all will have a positive impact in your life.

Cultivate the skills of concentration, observation, and investigation in order to grow your wisdom. Be awake, alert, attentive, appreciative, and aware, in order to be fully alive. Know that the diligent practice will make your life better by, on one hand, taming delusion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, hatred, and violence, and on the other hand, by increasing in you the reservoir of kindness, gentleness, peace, compassion, generosity, patience, love, and forgiveness.

Be happy! And because happy is difficult to be define, at least be happier now than were before. Be happier! Be joyful! Take inventory of all the demands and notice how much you demand from yourself, how hard you are on yourself. Develop some self-compassion and give yourself the gift of rest. It’s your birthright. Rest. You deserve it.

Develop happiness, by practicing to notice, appreciate, savor, and absorb all the good things in life. If you do so, you will grow in gratitude which is the key that unlocks the gates to the kingdom of happiness.

Cultivate wisdom: wise effort, wise mindfulness, wise concentration, wise assessment, wise discernment, wise understanding, wise intention, wise action, wise speech, and wise livelihood.

All this practice will allow you to gain the wisdom that cuts through delusion and ignorance and allows you to see the truth of life clearly.

And continue exploring and inspiring!

So remember that our practice is not selfish. We don’t practice for ourselves alone. Our practice makes the entire world a better place. Whatever makes us better, makes the world better because we are part of the world.

I bow to you in gratitude. Thank you for your practice.

Wishing you many mindful moments, today and everyday.

~ Piero Falci


 

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

Meta Awareness

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. And the knowing that you have thoughts all the time — these random, discursive, mostly negative, always self-referential thoughts — allows you not to be owned by them. Knowing that you know is what separates humans from other animals, but most humans don’t know that they know. Most humans have not been trained to observe, notice, and become aware of their thoughts and emotions. They are yanked around… we are yanked around by this malevolent puppeteer of our ego, of our discursive thought process. A thought comes into our minds like a little dictator and we just do what the thought commands, even when doing it is detrimental to us. There’s no buffer between the stimulus and our reaction. Meditation is about building that buffer. One of the greatest benefits I see of mindfulness meditation is that by practicing it I am less likely to be yanked around and owned by my neurotic obsessions.


 

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

Unsatisfactoriness and Enoughness

 

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 bring me contentment and peace of mind was never clear: perhaps the next academic degree, the next job, the next relationship, the next house, the next vacation, perhaps when I achieved fame and fortune. I kept pursuing those things that the culture told me would make me happy. Not knowing what would tame my anxiety — what would give me the feeling of fulfillment I so much longed for — I found myself all over the place. It was as if I was shooting in the dark, hoping to hit the target. Rather than being centered and satisfied, I found myself in this state of imbalance, constantly desiring, constantly leaning forward, 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, and dissatisfaction.’ I could hear Mick Jagger singing, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

I came to realize that many of the things I was pursuing, the things I was told would make me happy, were misleading, vain promises of happiness. I realized that I was following someone else’s formula for happiness, not my own.  I also came to learn that a state of happiness based in conditions is only temporary because circumstances are constantly changing. Yes, everything is impermanent!

And then I began to become aware of the vicious circle of desires and discontentment, desires and restlessness, desires and suffering! I became more aware of how wanting is disturbing, and how contentment is calming.

Enter enoughness.

I realize that everything, no matter how good, can be improved. I also realize that improvement has no end, and that it is necessary to practice mindfulness and  know when to say, “That’s enough. I am satisfied.” By practicing appreciation, contentment, and gratitude for all that I do, all that I have, and who I am, I feel that I was blessed 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 happier.

Give it a try.

……..

“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

……..


 

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

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.

……..

“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, directly and indirectly, will 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.”

……..

“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.

……..

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?

……..

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.

……..

“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.”

……..


 

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

 

An Appeal for Sanity – Part 14

I live in Florida, close to the ocean. Every morning I go to the beach to watch the sunrise, and every morning I pick up trash from the sand. Some days I pick up a lot, other days just a little. Some days I go well prepared, with gloves, bags, and my pickup tool. Other days I just bend down, collect items with my bare hands, and deposit them in the trash cans. But I have vowed not to leave the beach without picking up at least eleven items. And if you are asking “Why eleven?” the answer is simple: “It’s just because eleven is my preferred number.”

Being a surfer, I have developed great love for the ocean, especially the shoreline, and beach cleanup is not new for me: it’s an activity I have been engaged in for decades. I have made it my mission to collect the scattered rubbish people leave behind. Almost every day I hear a “Thank you for doing this” from a stranger, and it is not uncommon to engage in conversations about how much our careless littering is wounding our planet.

I am not saying all this to brag, but to bring up a reflection about the way we live. Perhaps we can pause and ask ourselves, “Am I aware of how my choices affect the planet and all life on it? Am I being selfish and lazy, doing what is convenient for me without considering the inconveniences I create for others?” Perhaps this reflection can inspire us to live differently, consuming less and wasting less. Perhaps we can be more mindful of the choices we make, and limit to a minimum the amount of disposable items we use.

I am trying to be more selective of what I buy, trying to reduce the consumption of products packaged in plastic and staying away from single-use plastic items, such as plastic forks, knives, spoons, plates, cups, straws, and bottles.

In an article published in the May 6th, 2019 edition of the Washington Post, Darryl Fears wrote: “One million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, according to a United Nations report released Monday. The landmark report goes further than previous studies by directly linking the loss of species to human activity. It also shows how those losses are undermining food and water security, as well as human health. Oceana senior adviser Philip Chou called the report a beacon for more action to address a crisis. “We are seeing alarming increases in the deaths of fish, marine mammals and turtles ingesting plastics,” Chou said. “These plastics break apart in the ocean into microscopic particles [that are] consumed by fish, fish we now eat.”

……..

Here it is, once again, my appeal for sanity: “We are all crew members and passengers of spaceship Earth, and we need to work together to preserve this vehicle that is taking us through the cosmos. We have to look at the big picture. We are all interconnected and interdependent. We are all in this together. We must stop all this ridiculous and pointless fighting, and cooperate unreservedly with each other, because we will either succeed and live, or fail and die, all of us together. Let’s change the focus, stop worrying about ourselves, and start thinking what we can do for others. Rather than asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ let’s ask, ‘How can I serve?’ We are all responsible for preserving Planet Earth and building a sustainable future for all life. Let’s work together for the common good, for the greater good. And working together for common goals is completely possible. We just need to let go of fear and selfishness, and have the resolve to make it happen. So, let’s stop the nonsense and the pettiness! Heaven is here, if we want it to be.”

……..

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

Meditation: Doing Something and Doing Nothing

Mindfulness meditation is not a practice I engage in order to create a desirable state, such as peace or bliss, but one I practice to develop the ability to be more aware and less reactive. It is a training that enhances my ability to pay attention to the present moment, notice what is going on, and curb my most-of-the-time hasty, thoughtless, and unwise reactions.

The idea that we can meditate to stop the arising of thoughts and clear the mind is a myth. In meditation, my aspiration is not to stop thinking but rather to observe the thinking. It is not my intention to have a completely blank mind, devoid of thoughts, but rather to be aware of thoughts when they arise, getting to know them better.

Besides awareness of my thoughts, the practice of mindfulness meditation has allowed me to be more aware of my emotions and body sensations. I have become more conscious of the constant activity of my mind and realized its non-stop pursuit of sorting out what I like from what I dislike, what I approve from what I disapprove. By resting in awareness — by staying put and doing nothing, except observing — I have been able to become aware of my periods of restlessness, drowsiness, and doubt. I noticed my relentless, competitive tendency to compare, contrast, categorize, classify, criticize, and condemn. I realized the impermanence of everything, became less judgmental and self-centered, and grew in love, kindness, gratitude, generosity, patience, and compassion. And, in the middle of this whole process, I came to experience greater calm and serenity.

It is said that the most important moment in the meditation practice is the one when we transition from being lost in thoughts to becoming aware of where our minds have been. By bringing energetic curiosity to my life, I have been able to clearly see the difference between the moments when I am not aware that I am thinking and those moments when I am. Now, when I become aware of a thought, I am able to realize that I have been lost in thoughts. I try to pay great attention to these moments of transition because noticing them, over and over again, is what develops my mindfulness and enhances the quality of my life. By having the intention and exercising the commitment to be awake, alert, attentive, aware, and appreciative, I feel fully alive.

……..


 

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