Peer-pressure, shame, embarrassment, fear of judgment—these are some of the reactive mental patterns that trigger our behavior. In Mindfulness Live we talk about reactivity all the time, focusing on one pattern per week. There are the negatives, like guilt, anger, denial and fear, as well as the positives, such as increased attention, empathy, discernment and insight. The list is as long as human behavior is complicated, but by taking them one at a time they slowly become manageable. The first goal is to see that all these negative feelings are natural products of the human mind—no reason for shame or guilt—and that with regular practice we start to change our response.
Last week’s topic was wishful thinking. For an example I recalled my very first expectations of meditation—that it would cure all my ills. All I had to do was, “Watch the breath.”
I did. For years. It felt good while I was doing it, but I always ended up back in the same old world with the same old baggage. Where’s the freedom in that? It didn't stop me wishing, and it didn't get me anywhere either.
Before we can let go of old patterns, we have to catch ourselves in the act of hanging on to them. That’s the real purpose of mindfulness. It’s not pretty, and the instinctive human response is to turn away. “I didn’t do it!” Denial works well in the short term, but as a long-term strategy it’s disastrous. Seeing the consequences of denial takes consistent but gentle attention, and recognizing them without shame or embarrassment raises them from the subconscious to full consciousness, finally giving us a say in them. The great obstacle is defensiveness. The payoff is the freedom of not taking things personally.
Think about what that would mean for you. It’s a real life-changer.
When you’re the only meditator in your household, keeping up motivation can be really tough. TO stop our perpetual engagement in the world of people we have to STOP, and that goes against all social norms. We need support in our dissent, and it’s heartwarming.
We laugh a lot, cry a little and wonder where we belong in this great universe. Not that we expect an answer. Those big questions are different. They leave us on the knife-edge of the sublime—being without needing to understand—witnessing the flux of life. What matters is to celebrate what we have, and to do it as consciously as possible.
MindfulnessLive.ca: where you'll keep up your practice, guaranteed!