Mindfulness is a wise and compassionate way of paying attention to our life…both internally and externally. We recognize what is actually happening in our moment-to-moment experience and receive it with the attitude of deep curiosity and unstoppable friendliness. This response to life creates the conditions for a genuine and reliable happiness and a profound ability to respond appropriately to the complexities of life.
In mindfulness meditation, we practice bringing this interested and kind attention to the changing flow of our inner life — clearly seeing what is happening in the heart-mind and body without being at war with it or wanting it to be different…without adding aversion or grasping. Now you might think, “Well, what’s the big deal with this?” Think about it. What happens when you see, touch, taste, smell or hear something pleasant…like tasting chocolate or a ripe strawberry? Like smelling freshly brewed coffee or something sizzling on the grill or baking in the oven? Like hearing wind chimes or your favorite music or the sound of silence? Or seeing the beauty of nature in all Her regalia? Or feeling bliss, excitement, relaxation, sexual communion or contentment? What happens within you? Perhaps pure gratitude and non-grasping. Perhaps you feel the desire for more, the urge to control the situation or person to keep the flow of pleasant sensory experience alive or to avoid unpleasant experience…for some of us at great cost as addictive patterns take over. Do you ever want more? Do you try to hold on to that pleasantness?
On the flip side, what happens when you experience something unpleasant? Like hearing traffic or the neighbor’s dog barking again at 2am? Feeling strong unpleasant sensations (aka pain or illness) in your body? Noticing the unwanted signs of aging? Seeing the destruction of life – human, animal, plant, mineral, water, earth? Or simply not getting what you want or believe you deserve? Are you inclined to take offense, feel judgmental towards others or yourself, act out of strong aversion, even hatred? Most of us are prone to some of these reactions when faced with fear, pain, rage, helplessness, grief and vulnerability. However, we need not spend so much time being tangled up in habitual patterns of reactivity that generate more harm. We can train ourselves to metabolize the strong emotions with compassionate presence, to “see” differently, and therefore respond with wisdom.
what is mainstream about mindfulness?
I chose to name this website Mainstream Mindfulness because I moved from Maryland near Washington, DC to Spokane in the other Washington in 2007 and wanted to continue sharing Buddhist teachings and practices (Dharma) albeit in a more conservative location. I did not want anyone to think they needed to become Buddhist to practice mindfulness meditation, because this form of meditation is not exclusive to any religion. I also did not want anyone to think they needed to give up any spiritual practice or religion to find benefit in mindfulness practice. Waking up to our true nature of loving awareness and living from that awareness, no matter what you call it, has been part of human potential and seeking throughout time. I aspired to honor this diversity by seeing the similarities and the unique aspects of spiritual teachings and practices. And over the course of recent years, mindfulness has become more mainstream as its benefits have been experienced in many streams of society.
Mindfulness meditation connects us to natural wisdom and love that already exists within each of us — primordial, inherent goodness and awareness — and allows us to manifest the truth of who we are, living with respect for ourselves and all beings which is the manifestation of cultivating mindfulness externally.
Perhaps our simple wish is to be happy — to live with contentment and ease, to be productive and contribute our gifts to others, to feel loved and loving, to feel profound inter-being and interconnectedness, and our belonging to this great Web of Life. And with this comes the natural arising of commitment to non-harming and a deep reverence for all Life. Although living from this wholehearted presence and sincere wish for the well-being of all Life is theoretically agreeable to most humans, the path of training to speak and act from this aspiration requires what I call Fierce Tenderness, and demands deep and honest self-inquiry and humility and it offers benefits.
One benefit comes when we begin to see how our struggling to control life inflicts unnecessary stress on ourselves and others. We see how much time we spend trying to get comfortable and how the degree of our stress is related to the narrowness of our comfort zone. The boundaries of our comfort zones are the boundaries of our freedom.
Another benefit comes when we realize all experiences arise due to multiple causes and conditions (some of which we have put into motion through our thoughts, words and deeds, but many of which we have not). We can begin to stop taking the inevitable changes or vicissitudes of life so personally.
We can challenge our belief that our happiness is dependent on experiencing pleasure, gain, fame and praise, because we see that these conditions come and go no matter how hard we work or how good our intentions might be. We see how we set ourselves up for great disappointment by taking refuge in what may bring us temporary happiness and well-being, such as prestige, money, possessions or the right relationship or job or place to live. These conditions are impermanent, subject to change at any moment, so why bank on them for our happiness? By not taking the transient comings and goings of life so personally we also interrupt the tendency to be obsessed with ourselves. We can feel the truth of how interwoven this web of life is and that we have a place in it. We have in our hands and heart-minds the power to cause harm and the power to live with reverence for life, to choose wisdom, peace and compassionate action. And to begin again when we act from an old pattern. Progress, not perfection.
This is the dharma of connection. Mindfulness meditation can cultivate a mind and heart that knows this truth and supports us to live from it. SANGHA IS THE NEW BUDDHA which means that how we live our lives, how we awaken with others, how we interact with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, “enemies,” and the earth Herself is as important as our individual path of awakening. Both are essential ingredients in a life of awakening and love.
Reaching IN devotes time to silence and contemplation in formal meditation practice…what I call “invitro” or in the laboratory practice to cultivate the beautiful wholesome mind-heart states of generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving-kindness and equanimity which are all expressions of a compassionate heart and are known with mindful awareness. Just as we want to plant beauty in a garden we also need to weed out un-beauty and so in our heart-minds we need to recognize and uproot greed, hatred and delusion to untangle and disable our habits of speaking and acting from those unwholesome and destructive states of mind and heart. To enable ourselves to enact a reverence for life in all that we do.
Reaching OUT devotes time, energy and other resources to the deep listening to suffering of others and letting that pain deepen our aspiration to understand, protect and support those in need and to understand, resist, defy and hold accountable those who oppress and harm other beings – all of which needs to be sourced with wisdom and compassion, lest we become what we oppose. May we find our ways to make a difference in the ongoing and noble fight for respect, peace and justice in our neighborhoods, communities, states and boundary-less widening circles across this beautiful blue-green planet. “Invivo” practice supports “invitro” practice supports “in vivo” practice…it is the Dance of Fierce Tenderness and like all dance requires movement, flow, tempo and grace.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead
You must be the change you want to see in the world.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes