Day 185 - Seventh Fold - Right Mindfulness
Welcome to Day Seven on the Eight Fold Path!
Today is Right Mindfulness...and also my Tribal Jaymes 60th Birthday! Happy Birthday to one of the most beautiful women I know, inside and out! Thank you for joining me on this path and being a sister in solidarity. I love you to the beautiful pink full moon and back! Have a great day!
I have heard right mindfulness described as bare attention. For me it is helpful to first take a look at what interferes with my ability to be present.
There are basically five things or hinderances that cause me to leave the building on being mindful:
1. Sensory desire - the type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling.
2. Ill-will - all kinds of thoughts related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness.
3. Sloth/torpor - heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.
4. Restlessness/worry - the inability to calm the mind.
5. Doubt - lack of conviction or trust.
So this basically describes my life on a daily basis. I engage in every one of these things every single minute of my life. Dammit!
So how can I ever practice “bare attention” when I have all of the above going on?
For me, it is an underlying commitment to see that I do this all the time and just keep trying.
I am not sure why I am oriented to fly through life. I am not a natural savorer. I tend to want to hurry up and get to the next thing. Whatever that is, even if I am not going to like it. It is like I was given this never ending list and I have made getting everyone of those boxes checked off before I die, my life's purpose and mission. It drives me and, if I let it, it consumes me.
There is a lot of talk these days about being mindful. I think that the prevailing wisdom is to be mindful is good and to not be mindful is bad. I disagree. I think, for me, the whole point is just to notice that I have left the path and then gently return myself to it. Over and over again for the rest of my life. Thoughts about good or bad, are not really helpful.
I have had a daily meditation practice for decades. Sometimes I am super present and dedicated and other times I spend the entire time on the cushion perfecting the five hinderances rather than perfecting mindfulness. That is kind of a drag considering how long I have been working on this...
What I have learned though is that the appearance of the five hinderances in my life are gifts. When I can notice their presence, I am returning to the path of right mindfulness. Let me explain:
When I am engaged in seeking happiness or pleasure using my five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch), as soon as I become aware that I am doing this, I am provided an opportunity to be mindful of what I am doing and not even necessarily a requirement to stop doing it. Just notice that I am doing it. I immediately return to a place of heightened attention because I can see with clarity and precision that I am craving...again.
When I am engaged in ill will or resentment, it is easy to see that I have left the path. I am thinking and am consumed mentally by the thoughts, feelings and desires my resentment is causing and I am no longer here. I am gone...again. Mindfulness brings me back to the place where I can begin again.
When I am engage in sloth, which is rarely because my nervous system doesn’t really allow for down time, I am again straying from the path. Sometimes I really wish that I could have more sloth in my life. I am just an up and at em kind of person and there are days when I tire myself out. I kind of feel like a hummingbird rather than a hawk is my spirit animal. However, I do have times when I slip into sloth and torpor and use this to awaken myself once more.
When I am restless and worried, which is literally all the time right now, I can see that I am struggling to stay on the path. I can and do fall down the many rabbit holes that restlessness and worry dig in the backyard of my mind. I am constantly and continually falling down them. It is kind of a pain in the ass because it takes me awhile to even see that I have fallen into the hole again and then it takes me quite a bit of effort to get out. For me, a mindful walk or hike is the best antidote for a restless mind or worried soul. It brings me back to mindfulness where I can see that once again, I have left the path. And in seeing that, I can return to it.
Finally, when I engage in doubt I am kind of saying to the universe that I know better than you. What I am immediately aware of is that I am not accepting life on life’s terms. Me doubting what is happening has never changed one thing and actually is usually the gateway for me to become engaged in all of the other hinderances. My antidote to doubt is to trust. Even though I can’t see a good ending or one that I like. This is how I return to the path once more.
So for me, mindfulness is a simple willingness to keep returning to the present moment in spite of my many efforts to leave it. I can accept that this is the way that it is and this is the way it will always be. I am never going to not engage in the hinderances, but I can use them to help me wake up and return to a more natural (unnatural for me) state of mind. To a place where there is freedom from craving, aversion and ignorance.
Stepping back from the arising of craving, separating myself from my contact with my senses and an object, gives rise to conditions where I can connect with right mindfulness and use all the circumstances of my life to wake up. To be present. To see clearly. Mindfulness aides us in not craving and clinging to any transitory state or thing, by being constantly and continually aware of the phenomena of impermanence, suffering and eradication of self.
When I can fully engage in life’s impermanence, see that is in our nature to suffer and to cling to this idea of this great big ME, I can access the most precious thing I have ever experienced, that is the ability to be present in the moment. Right mindfulness gets me there and is a practice to help me return when I go astray...
For me, slowing down doesn’t come easy. I am a task master and my well being seems to depend upon my ability to achieve and accomplish almost to the exclusion of everything else in my life. Without right mindfulness, I would allow this tendency, this orientation to rob me of feeling connected, loved, touched, cared for as much as it would rob me of my ability to connect, love, touch and care for others. Mindfulness is the tool that brings me back and delivers me to a place where all is well, always. That is right here, right now. In this moment, all is well.