The beauty of mindfulness is vast and unending. It’s a practice that threads together the many different areas of our lives, making our spiritual life the same as our secular one. Mindfulness works to open our eyes to the sacred that is around us at all times – whether we’re seated on our cushion or out in the world doing the day-to-day activities. To practice mindfulness is to become more intimate with life.
In Sanskrit and in Chinese language, the word for mind and the word for heart are the same. Mindfulness is a practice that works to open our hearts so that we can see things clearly. One way to see the spiritual path with more clarity is to understand that we’re not here to perfect ourselves. We’re here to become more loving, more openhearted, more compassionate, more peaceful, and more kind. We’re here to become more present with everything – not striving to become some sort of idealized version of ourselves.
“My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone.” Anne Lamott.
We need the tools of mindfulness in order to not have to go to the bad neighborhood of our minds alone. And we need to understand that everyone experiences this scariness from time to time.
So what do we do?
We understand that we’re not alone. We get on our cushions and practice meditation so that we can become more broad and spacious in our minds and hearts, which also helps us become more resilient. We train ourselves in mindfulness in order to become less reactive – so that we can respond to our thoughts and the conversations we have with other people in a more kind and compassionate way.
When we come upon a sensation of contraction, we simply take a mindful pause. We breathe, and then we inquire. “What’s going on with me, in this moment?” We can then label it “anger” or “fear” or “craving” or “worry.” This allows for that spaciousness; that ability to witness the “craving mind” or the “fearful mind.” And the practice of seated meditation gives us the opportunity to practice just this. We get to see just how crazy and unreliable our minds are, so that we eventually settle them down a bit and become more peaceful, more still.
Then our practice becomes a tool for healing – not only ourselves but also those around us, and even humanity at large. For what the modern world really needs at this moment in history are less aggression, more peace, and more inter-connectedness. It’s from this place of compassion and clarity that we can begin to solve the problems facing us today. This is the practice of mindfulness. Its beauty is as vast as the sea.