Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Authentic Mindfulness in the Face of Difficulty

Through meditation, we come to know the state of receptive steady awareness without preferences. The challenge is to maintain this at all times, even in the face of difficulty.

For example, if we are angry, to recognise the energy of anger, which is not in itself negative, so as not to let it spill out into angry words and deeds. We thus begin to see anger as an event of human experience, not as something personal, and through watching its arising come to know it better.

The same is true of worry or doubt. For example, suppose you are supported by a strict routine as one is when living in a monastery. When you fall out of your usual routine, you will experience a feeling of uncertainty. This is unsettling. The mind will have an urge to plan. You might respond to this by thinking, "everything is uncertain anyway", that is the truth of change, and so push this feeling away. But this would not be authentic. Better would be to experience the feeling, or else create the certainty which the feeling calls for.

Our third and final example is distraction. How to overcome the race-commentator syndrome of the restless mind. Again, we need to slow down and really tune in to distinguish that which is useful which we should pay attention to, from that which is wasting our energy.

So, as a first step with difficult states of mind, we must acknowledge them. With the help of awareness-reminders, we recognise their arising. After that, it's not a case of getting rid of, nor of being pulled in, but simply tuning in and noticing the nature of your preoccupations, commitments and loves. This will help us prioritise the things which really matter.

The Guesthouse
(Rumi trans. Coleman Barks)

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

Source: Anonymous. This is merely written up by me.

Originally published at Buddhist Travellers in 2011.

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