Mindful Living Creates Happiness – Intro
Life is really about “managing” two aspects of our lives: our “outer-environment” and considerably more important, our “inner-environment.” Keeping all the plates spinning can be a daunting task, to say the least. Living in a fast-paced, schedule-oriented society like ours creates a very fixed and predictable structure to our lives, but this very structure to our lives leaves little flexibility and can create copious amounts of stress that can rob us of our sense of happiness and inner “well-being.” Fulfilling so many obligations to work and family means a large percentage of our lives is lived out merely at the level of “functionality,” with very little time to devote to ourselves. This can have detrimental effects on our level of self-awareness and the degree to which we consciously navigate through life. Not “engaged” with the dynamic process of life, we tend to merely go through the motions of securing our most basic needs.
The key to having a sense of balance and any resemblance of peace of mind is by cultivating our ability to be “PRESENT.” To be present is to live ‘mindfully engaged’ in the ‘now-ness’ of each moment, in order to prioritize things, evaluate their relevance, and thus effectively manage our inner “well-being.”
“Mindfulness” and “presence” are elusive concepts for most because society keeps us living at such a hurried pace, we’re always focused on what needs to be attended to next. As a result, we bring very little “awareness” to our state of being.
“AWARENESS” is the ONLY catalyst to bring about changes in ourselves and in our life. Without awareness our emotional state of mind remains entirely “reactive,” instead of “responsive,” and entirely circumstantial. Few discover that their state of mind is NOT of product of circumstance.
How often do we devote way too much time to certain aspects of our lives only to have other aspects suffer? For example, there are many who work themselves to death, only to have their health and relationships deteriorate. This imbalance and inability to manage the various aspects of our lives can create so much unnecessary stress for us.
Our human intelligence, a recently acquired product of evolution, is such, that if we do not organize it properly, it only causes confusion and misery. Instead of being robust with tremendous potential and possibility, it is a very sophisticated tool that has become a big problem for most of humanity.
With clever minds, we’ve given our suffering all kinds of different names, calling it concern, stress, anxiety, pragmatism, security, depression, loneliness, sadness, or misery, but essentially it simply means our mind has gone rogue and is now perceived as being beyond our control.
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry—all forms of fear—are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” Eckert Tolle
How often I hear people say, “I just can’t seem to stop thinking about it! My mind won’t shut off!”
No longer able to see that our thoughts and feelings are “ours” but not “us,” the complexion of our emotions is seen as almost entirely circumstantial – meaning, we believe our feelings are just a natural response to what is happening to us in any given moment, therefore we just surrender to them, feeling powerless to do anything but wait for them to pass. This is a very debilitating and disempowering premise to approach life from. Our feelings emerge from one thing and one thing only: Our perceptions and the internal narrative we create in response to those perceptions!!! In other words, we create stories effortlessly – impulsively – that may or may not have any relevance or bearing on the reality of things.
So moving beyond suffering involves becoming “mindful” of it. But, oh how much energy we exhaust in trying to ignore it!
Pain in life is inevitable, but emotional suffering truly arises from within us and our inability to remain present. Tortured by our thoughts we find ourselves effortlessly floating back into the past, where we ruminate on memories and things we cannot change; or we project ourselves into the future with fear and anxiety of the unknown. Both are “non-realities” that are devitalizing projections of an overactive mind.
In other words, we lose our grip on reality, as our mind writes a script over every experience we’re having instead of seeing and experiencing each moment for what it is. Our focus becomes very myopic in nature as we incessantly replay events and/or conversations from the past over and over, or create scenarios about how the future will play out. This tendency alone is the source of virtually all of our pain. All the while, we mentally drift back and forth between these two non-realities: the past and/or the future, and are anything but immersed in the “present” moment.
If we are suffering all by ourselves, it is our mind, along with its never ending stream of thoughts, that is now working against us; no one else. As a result, we become victims of its seemingly intentional and incessant provocation. This is all fear masquerading as logical thinking as our mind tries connecting the dots in trying to make sense of what is causing us so much pain, but it’s very pathological, compulsive, and misguided energy. Rather than soothing us, it devours us. Sadly, this is the default state of mind for most of society and this constant stress has profoundly detrimental effects on our health. Learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way is paramount to our well-being.
So, let’s give this context:
Most of us have never paid attention to, nor have we explored the MOST IMPORTANT DIMENSION of who and what we are. We are trapped with a constant outbound focus, believing LIFE is “out there” and we’re “in here.” Looking out from behind these eyes of ours, we see life as something to be pursued, never realizing it’s only going on within us.
We cannot know life any other way than the way it happens within us. “YOU,” and you alone, ARE THE ONLY DOORWAY TO EXISTENCE for yourself and the experiences you’re having. LIFE is only experienced through the mechanisms of our body, which again, is OURS, but is not “US.” This distinction is crucial to one’s understanding on their path to enlightenment.
And therein lies the problem. Our whole perception of life is determined, not by the events themselves, but rather by our interpretation of all the information we take in through our five senses. Everything we know or ever could know, has entered our understanding by seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or smelling. This is the only way we can know life and perceive the world around ourselves. Without your senses you’d have no perception of the world or yourself at all. We experience this deprivation every night when we sleep.
And this is the distinction that must be made. Most people’s level of awareness is such that they believe they are a human having experiences. But experience doesn’t occur in the body. The body has no experiences. ALL EXPERIENCES take place in the mind. Remove consciousness from the body and the body has no experiences whatsoever. The body is only a technology that processes sensory input that our mind interprets as an “experience.” We believe it’s “real,” but is it?
As we enter into sleep, the whole of existence disappears because our five senses have shut down. Obviously, we don’t cease to exist, it’s just that the mechanisms of the body are not being employed to create an experience for us. When we awaken, an obvious sign we still exist despite the absence of any “experiences,” our “awareness” returns . . . at least of the “outside” world. We see ourselves as trapped in this avatar interacting with the world “out-there.”
So, what I’m alluding to, is that our sense organs are all outbound. What we’ve internalized as “the world” pressing in on us, are only impressions; indelible perceptions we’ve developed about ourselves, others, and the world around us, based on what has been taught to us and what has happened to us along our journey over the course of our life. The repetitious patterns that play out have given a predictability to aspects of our life, and that predictability predisposes us to seeing what we want to see. What we see depends largely upon what we look for.
The cumulative sum of all the impressions made upon us governing our hopes, fears, aspirations, biases, beliefs, prejudices, perspectives, and opinions –fashions and creates the lens we see reality through. This lens is our “karma.”
The key to developing peace of mind is to develop the awareness that life is only going within us. It’s ALL only perceived within us. Pleasure and pain is experienced within you. Joy and sadness is experienced within you. Lightness and darkness are experienced within you. Every experience is only going on WITHIN YOU.
Something I try to do in counseling others is to simply have them acknowledge their fear and realize it’s ALL going on within them. In doing so, we can then start to deal with our fears, insecurities, and past traumas to heal ourselves. So, to put an end to this endless chattering in our minds, wreaking havoc on our emotions that are teeming with so many complexions, we look at the irrationality of these thoughts by giving them context and putting them into one of two categories: Love or fear.
For all our complexity, and despite the fact that we give our emotions so many names, we really only have two emotions: LOVE & FEAR.
Anything other than LOVE is rooted in FEAR. All emotional suffering is fear. Anger, indignation, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and sadness, all come from unresolved hurt and the subsequent fear that developed within us as a result, that we are afraid to re-experience again.
For example, what is anger? Anger is a complicated emotion, because, unlike other emotions, it’s very acute in nature and has so many different triggers. If you look underneath anger, you’ll always find unresolved pain and fear. Anger can arise for a number of reasons, but, at its core, it emerges from fear. Anger can arise when something is threatening our physical or emotional sense of security, something that exposes our inefficiencies. Easily offended or provoked, we fear what others think of us or fear others will come to see who we really are behind the thin veneer of our persona (ego). Anger can be the fear of having to suffer the untoward consequences of choices that we’ve made, and as a result, we fear we will be penalized or will have something taken from us. Anger can be the fear that something adverse is going to happen to us or prevent us from getting what we want or the fear that something may be taken from us, meaning our expectations will go unmet. Fear that someone else’s decision or choices may create unwanted consequences for me.
What is depression? The fear our life is never going to be any better than our current state of affairs. And sadness? Sadness is the fear that the gaping hole left by something or someone we’ve grown attached to, in being lost, will leave us with the inability to ever recover because it or they cannot be replaced. Loneliness? Loneliness can be debilitating. It’s the fear that we’re always going to be alone or the belief that no one thinks we’re worthwhile or relevant enough to spend time with. Anxiety? Fear of the unknown. It’s all FEAR!
This is important, because a large number of our fears come from a very negative internal dialogue we’re having within ourselves, that stems from an incapacity to love and accept ourselves. As a result, we create self-deprecating and often frightening stories that only validate and reinforce our fears and the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. The key to reducing stress and healing the wounds from our past involves creating a “gap” between our thoughts and our feelings by becoming the observer of our thoughts and reframing them. By seeing the thoughts as separate from us and really having no power over us other than the credence we give them.
So, rising above the compulsive and capricious nature of our damaging thoughts involves developing our awareness, becoming “mindful,” present, and by paying attention to the meandering of the mind and the messages we’re sending to ourselves. Are we loving and honoring ourselves or are are we terrifying ourselves and bullying ourselves with insults that victimize us?
Victimizing ourselves is an easy place to go to because it actually serves us, at least temporarily. When we victimize ourselves we find it difficult just to breathe, so we give ourselves permission to just feel sorry for ourselves and play small for a bit. Others, understanding our pain, feel compassion for us, and subsequently, don’t expect much from us. So, we get to step out of the spotlight and stop participating in the incredible adventure of life to rest and regroup. But as is often the case, we often miss the lesson . . . the fact that EVERYTHING is our teacher.
Though usually met with resistance, pain is our teacher and is always a tremendous opportunity to grow! Primarily because, we tend not to grow during the joyous periods of our lives. During these times, we are immersed in the dynamic experience of life’s unfolding and the joy of just “being.”
Pain, has purpose! Whether physical or psychological in nature, all pain has purpose. When we are in pain we become laser focused!
Pain is a rather sophisticated biochemical cascade developed by the body, that summons and converges our entire energy and conscious awareness around the source of our pain or something that threatens our well-being. Pain is very acute and brings an immediacy to physiological and/or psychological gaps in our awareness by creating a hyper-focused awareness of the aspects of ourselves that we’ve been neglecting or to areas of the body that have recently experienced physical trauma.
Artwork by Martin Stranka
For example, the bulk of our immune system resides in our large intestine. Every year hundreds of millions of people’s immune systems collapse because of poor, negligent choices made day in day out. With diets consisting of largely processed foods, loaded with sugar, and inorganic chemicals nature never intended for our bodies to process, our immune system is taxed and deteriorates. With millions of chemical processes occurring every minute of every day below the level of cognition and our conscious awareness, it’s only when the system collapses that the body’s software makes us painfully aware that it’s in trouble. Despite eating more than enough calories, the calories we consume are empty, nutrient-deficient calories. Starving our bodies without knowing it, our modern diets have created a very large percentage of people that are obese and simultaneously profoundly malnourished, decimating one’s immune system. In such a compromised state, that same percentage of the population develops a whole host of diseases ranging from the common cold, to the flu, to Type ll diabetes, to coronary heart disease, and cancers. All preventable by making conscious choices with respect to proper diet and exercise.
After years of neglect, and pushed beyond its ability to maintain homeostasis and a healthy internal state, our compromised bodies know how to draw our attention to what we’ve been either unaware of or simply ignoring. Diagnosed with any of these conditions, we seek the help of professional practitioners, and very quickly become acutely “aware” of the need to make better choices by choosing to live more mindfully, paying attention to what we failed to in the past.
With millions of years in its design the body knows how to heal itself, but sometimes it needs to gather our attention around what needs to be healed.
Just like physical trauma, emotion trauma, always creates introspection and the tendency to reframe our choices. We evaluate the paths we’ve taken and where they’ve led us. In appraising the outcomes, we assign value to our choices, the intent and motivation behind those choices, and in turn learn a little bit more about ourselves, about our place in the universe, and how to move through this experience called LIFE.
Every living thing owes its existence, its development, its morphology, its anatomy and physiology, and its survival to the natural process of natural selection and adaptation. Every virus, bacterium, fungi, mold, plant, fish, amphibian, reptile, and mammal’s intricate design is the result of adapting to opposing forcing acting upon them and nature’s beautiful solution in designing a way to counter and adapt to those pressures. Our emotional development is no exception. Every hardship galvanizes our emotional gains made in our development. This is what we call wisdom.
It’s unfortunate, but we live in a society that provides us with so many ways to distract ourselves, so, we don’t have to deal with our pain if we don’t want to. As a result, many become bitter instead of better; wounded instead of becoming wiser.
In our society, where life has been reduced down to a competitive money sport, where the individual is programmed out of the individual, and where endless marketing only creates a society of “isotypes,” our self-image is constantly being chipped away at. We cannot help but reinforce all of our fears and insecurities because society, sadly, only appeals to the egoic mind and keeps us focused on the superficial. With this constant outbound focus, we lose sight of who we are and become oblivious of the journey we’re on which becomes only an afterthought and something we rarely contemplate. And what is the journey we are on? The journey of self-discovery! Every experience here is lending itself to the evolution of consciousness, both ours as an individual and the collective consciousness of all that is.
Contrary to our popular societal belief, the point of our journey is not to simply work, shop, die and inherit some form of “eternity,” which for most, is a future event we arrive at “after” we die.
Here’s the rub. If something is eternal it is infinite, it exists outside the dimension of time; it’s indivisible, with no beginning and no end. Time simply doesn’t apply in a dimension that’s infinite. Something doesn’t “become” eternal, it’s either eternal or it’s not. Though I explain this in far more detail in other writings of mine, our souls, the inner dimension of ourselves, are infinite with no beginning and no end. We are points of conscious awareness in the framework of a body and universe that is in endless transition and transformation.
And that’s the point! “Eternity” is not something we inherit, it is inseparable from what we are. We’re living it in each finite, tiny moment to moment experience we’re having! Forever is made up of “NOWs!” Eternity is only a series of “NOWs,” conscious experiences, strung together to create an endless procession of more “NOWs.”
Realize deeply within the essence of your being that the present moment is all you will ever possess, everything else is simply the meanderings and projections of a restless mind.
We cannot have an experience that lies beyond our awareness because our awareness is the only way experiences can be “experienced.” We cannot have an experience we’re unaware of. Because we cannot experience anything outside of ourselves, every event requires us as an observer in order for it to be “experienced.” The external world you experience is not something separate from you, it is an extension of you.
Awareness is a process of inclusion, where what is happening outside of us is experienced “within” us. We are both the center and the circumference of every event happening within the sphere of our awareness. External events create internal ripples within us that we experience as thoughts and emotions; the two are connected but make no mistake about it, every experience we’re having is based on how we “think” and “feel” about it, and that is only going on within us as a perceptual experience. So, life is never happening to us, it’s only and always going on “within” us.
Awareness creates ALL our experiences and only exists within the infinitesimally small space between the past and the future, that we call “now.” NOW is all there is. The past exists only as our memory and the future only as our imagination, but both projections of the mind are happening NOW. So do we want to experience Life as it IS, or live trapped in our head, ruminating on the past or projecting into the future – neither of which is “REAL.”
When we lose ourselves in thought our awareness moves from the physical senses to the internal projections of the mind. We disappear as does our awareness of what is going on around us. We go largely unconscious as we indulge in the pictures appearing on the screen in the theatre of our mind. The physical realm evaporates away as we become lost in our thoughts. The moment is lost to the meanderings of our mind.
This is eternity – regardless of where the mind wanders, or where we choose to focus our attention – in reality, or in our thoughts – it is all only happening NOW!
Eternity is happening NOW. We’re living in eternity – only transitioning in and out of form, from lifetime to lifetime, as we phase in and out of the physical dimension with the avatars we construct. We’re here because the physical plane provides opportunities that are simply not available for the evolution of consciousness, in the nonphysical, where we rest temporarily. In between lifetimes, there are no struggles, no challenges, no problems to be solved. Our conscious expansion is halted. The physical plane and the mental obstacle course that it creates allows for the individual and collective consciousness of creation itself to expand forever.
So, let’s expand!!!