Internal focus

Mindfulness practice tells us that the best way to work with the changes that face us today is to look inside,  and that a large part of our contentment comes from the internal ways we work with what faces us. As I was reminded in a talk I heard last week, a fundamental characteristic of life is not just that it is continually changing but that it does so in ways we cannot predict. It is an ongoing challenge to remain curious and increase our interior freedom in the face of these surprises. However, this curiosity can help us to avoid holding onto situations or seeking alternatives that are actually unhealthy. This is expressed extremely well in this quotation which outlines the underlying principles beneath this day-to-day practice.

The compulsion to change the world  to calm our desires is based on an idea of how things should be, and as such is dependent upon the degree of wisdom we can bring to bear at any moment. Because we are so imbued with this notion that happiness is something to be pursued by the continual transformation of the external, it can sound odd to hear the Buddha talk of uncovering happiness within. He acknowledged the inevitable presence of disequilibrium, which he called dukkha or suffering, but suggested we seek out its internal causes, understand them and solve the problem by means of internal adjustments. According to his analysis, it is not the objective discrepancy between the internal and the external condition that is the source of unhappiness; it is the desire for the external to change (or not to change as the case may be) which is itself an internal state. Conditions in the world are notoriously unstable and subject to forces beyond our control, while internal desire are more intimate and more accessible. It is simply more efficient to adapt to the world than to alter it.

Andrew Olwendzki, Unlimiting Mind

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