What's all this talk about mindfulness? (March 2017 Blog Entry)
To best understand what mindfully living really looks like, let's consider the alternative: living mindlessly, which is arguably easier because it requires very little thinking on our part. Mindfulness, on the other hand, demands that we think far beyond instant gratification, and contemplate the many ripple effects of every decision we make. Until we start living mindfully, our choices are often self-destructive if the consequences only affect us, or downright inconsiderate if our decisions impact the lives of others. It’s not much different from being careful vs. careless, or thoughtful vs. thoughtless.
For example: People who live on the top floor of an apartment building tend to be more mindful of their footsteps, but only if they’ve ever lived below someone who was loud and inconsiderate in the past. Only then are they aware of how something as simple as slamming a kitchen cabinet can wake a sleeping baby in another apartment, or disturb a nurse who worked the graveyard shift the night before and is trying to nap prior to going back to the hospital.
But don't start judging people as “rude” if they’re not mindful; remember that we are all mangoes on the same tree, but we do not all ripen at the same time. Humbly recall the many instances in your own life when you, yourself, were the inconsiderate one (or still are, for that matter). As my old teacher used to say to his students, “You are all perfect, and you can all use a little improvement.” :)
Life is not about “Doing No Harm,” as the common Buddhist invitation suggests, it’s about doing LESS harm, which is actually possible. That’s why mindfulness is a daily practice.
Here’s an instance of mindfulness as it pertains to self-destructive behavior: consider how often we wait until we are diagnosed with high blood pressure and only then bring awareness to how much salt is in our food. Until then, we mindlessly eat whatever we want, oblivious of the harm we are causing to ourselves.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The key to mindfulness is a subtle pause between impulse and action. During that very important pause, ask yourself, “WHY am I about to do what I’m about to do?” (or eat what I’m about to eat, drink what I’m about to drink, buy what I’m about to buy, etc.) Your answer might actually change your behavior when you realize how much harm your action could potentially cause to yourself or to someone else. That’s when you naturally start looking at alternative options that reduce the overall suffering in the world.
So bring mindfulness into everything you do by introducing a gap between impulse and action, and watch as raised awareness enriches every aspect of your life with intention, a sense of purpose, and compassion toward yourself and others.
We’re all in this together, so we might as well help each other along the way!
With much love from your brother,
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