Hurdling hurdleless-hurdles

October 3, 2015 | Short Reflections

Mindfulness has increasingly entered the mainstream as a spiritual “technology” for living more mindfully in many secular domains. In the Buddhist context, there are several ways to speak about the culmination of mindfulness as a path to awakening. It can be pragmatically described as freedom of the mind purified of greed, hatred, and delusion—the unwholesome roots in the mind of all unskillful actions. We can say, the mind is liberated from these afflictive emotions or mind states and awakening into peace, love, wisdom, and compassion. This path is a pragmatic and applicable way of awaking from suffering. Mindfulness is the tool for introspection—a methodology to look inward with interest to investigate our minds.

There are common challenges on this path. People often forget that this is a practice. This means we need to begin over and over again. Once we follow the teachings, this by no means, is a linear path upwards to great enlightenment. There are many ups and downs experienced on the path. We forget and become unaware. We can become discouraged. We can begin to experience many forms of doubt. We can experience self-judgement. It’s important to reinforce the understanding that these ups and downs are part of the path. Everyone goes through them.

We can learn from experiences of falling off the path. We can learn to realize that the practice is simply to begin again—repeatedly. This determination helps begin to free the mind from feeling lost or believing self-doubt or self-judgment. In fact, low points of self-doubt and judgment can provoke the most inquiry. Importantly, moments of greatest suffering may lead to the greatest insight. These times call for a great quality of interest.

Our attentive interest sustains the mind. Cultivating our interest assists us in times of distress, suffering, or reactivity. Instead of self-judgement, we can find opportunities for interior investigation. We can learn to explore what in the mind causes our suffering, attachments, or repulsion. Developing an interest for our mind, whether we experience exhilarating or afflictive states of mind, leads to understanding.

Nurturing interest in our mind is the most beneficial quality to sustain a mindfulness practice. There is much to learn in circumstances of suffering and directly reflects Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths. Buddha conveys the truth of suffering and unsatisfactoriness in living, then addresses the causes. He describes the end of suffering and the path to that end. We can bring these truths to life in our own lives.

Our curiosity can help us realistically pin point what causes our suffering rather than experiencing a generalized and unregulated disagreeable state of mind. Developing spaciousness for inquiry into jealousy, envy, aversion, fear, or pride allows us to be mindfully specific in recognizing what it is.

This leads us to appreciate that it is not enough to simply recognize the experience but how we relate to the experience. A common ”go to” reaction is to give way to fear. Noting dissatisfaction, entertaining commentaries about unhappy experiences, and wanting them to go away isn’t enough. This can actually be manifesting aversion. A freeing step of acceptance of the experience is necessary to allow the feeling to pass through. That is to say, we are called to mind. This is an essential element of mindfulness.

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