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

Seeing through

The process of practice is to see through, not to eliminate, anything to which we are attached. We could have great financial wealth and be unattached to it, or we might have nothing and be very attached to having nothing.  Most practice gets caught in this area of fiddling with our environments or our minds. ” My mind should be quiet”. Our mind doesn’t matter; what matters is non attachment to the activities of the mind. And our emotions are harmless unless they dominate us – that is, if we are attached to them- then they create dis-harmony for everyone. The first problem in practice is to see that we are attached. As we do consistent, patient practice we begin to know that we are nothing but attachments; they rule our lives. But we never lose an attachment by saying it has to go. Only as we gain true awareness of its true nature does it quietly and imperceptibly wither away; like a sandcastle with waves rolling over, it just smooths out and finally Where is it? What was it? …

Charlotte Joko Beck

Developing self-compassion

Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself.

You may not be perfect, but you are all you’ve got to work with.

The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

Accepting, not problem-solving

This reflex to solve, rescue and fix, removes us from the tenderness at hand. For often, intimacy arises not from any attempt to take the pain away, but from living through together; not from a working out, but from a being with. Trust and closeness deepen from holding and being with, both emotionally and physically.

I’m learning, pain by pain and tension by tension, that after all my strategies, the strength of love lies in receiving and not negotiating; in accepting each other and not problem solving each other; in listening and affirming each other, not trying to change or fix those we love.

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening