a mindful life
Hi there. Here’s an extremely rough draft of an essay I just did for class:
Allow yourself permission to never have it all together. Allow yourself to live a mindful and fulfilling present-day life. We spend much of our time thinking back on the past; maybe it was better than now, or maybe we could’ve done something better in order to have a better now. We also think ahead into the future quite a bit. Daydreaming of a life that will be more exceptional, even if what we have is good now, we can’t help but think about how it will be later. Do we discredit who we are at this moment by thinking of life in terms of other than the present? Equanimity, mindfulness, and being okay with whatever emerges in your life will essentially free you from suffering. Training your mind to see the good, and to seek the lessons in every situation will allow you to radiate into a happier and more peaceful life.
By simply wishing and hoping for change, it never will. As long as you hope to get better, you won’t. As long as you have an “orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are” (Chodron, par. 2). Pema Chodron is an American Buddhist nun, who believes that everyone should abandon self-improvement schemes and accept who they are at present. While I agree with Chodron’s general notion of self-acceptance, I believe that we should strive to evolve into the best version of ourselves. Not by actively or consciously doing so-because it takes away from enjoying who we are now if we are thinking about whom we are going to eventually be-but by giving into our present selves we will organically become a product/manifestation of our thoughts and actions.
Once you give yourself permission to transcend all that you need from within yourself. You will find that true joy comes from Being and the profound peace that accompanies it. Many who have not found their true Being look for that in sources apart from within, they look to other people or material things to give them fulfillment, love, security, validation. Make friends with yourself; create a lasting relationship with yourself. Nurture and support your Being. “Your Being is your innermost invisible and indestructible essence, accessible to only you as your own deepest self, your true nature” (Tolle, par. 7). Ultimately there is no escaping yourself, “no escape leaves you continually right in the present” (Chodron, par. 15). You are compelled to feel whatever it is you are feeling, whatever mood you appear to be in, and whatever thoughts you happen to be having. That’s it.
Life is everything we miss when our minds are distracted. If you tend to live for the next moment or are thinking about the next thought, you’ll rarely find any gratification. Whether the mind journeys to the past or the future, or if those thoughts that whisked you away were useful, pleasant or uncomfortable, the consequences are the same. You missed the moment of the present, the experience, evolving right before you. “The opposite of a wandering mind is a mindful one” (Jha 28). Mindfulness is living in the present moment without judgment, appreciating each instant as if it is experienced for the very first time. Much of meditation is focusing on your breathing and getting in tune with the now. Through the simple appreciation of your breath in the present moment, you have reflected upon mindfulness.
For as long as you live you will face temporary moments of defeat. But that’s exactly what they are, temporary. Understanding that a temporary condition doesn’t define your permanent situation is a major step towards reaching an enlightened mindset. As Buddha put it simply, enlightenment is “the end of suffering”. To be enlightened is to be at one, to be in a constant mode of wholeness, and at peace. Enlightenment is the end of your internal and external conflicts. It’s the acceptance of what life is now. You can find serenity by cultivating your own consciousness, gaining control of your own attention, creating a greater awareness of your moment-by-moment experiences.
To be a person of my words, I conducted my own experiment and spent the day before writing this essay, practicing the art of mindfulness. It was the simple act of “being conscious of your thoughts” in order to bring your attention back to reality whenever your mind drifted to the past or future (Jha, par. 5). Through just one day of mindfulness I experienced bliss. I am happier; I am more forgiving, more understanding. I was there, in the moment, living. Experiencing everything as it unfolded before me. I felt immediately lighter, like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, as cliché as that may sound. For once, I didn’t have to worry about anything but what was happening in that very moment. I gave myself permission to feel my thoughts rather than worry about my next thought. I allowed myself to move on from things that no longer served me. I “abandoned any hope of fruition” (Chodron, par. 13). After getting a taste of a life more awakened, I want nothing more than to live for each moment and to experience it in its entirety.
Why is it that we’d rather drift away to a different time? Why do we allow ourselves to focus on the past or future rather than what is right before us? It is true; people rarely find satisfaction in the present moment. There are always times one is thinking about what they could’ve done differently in a situation or how things might turn out for them in the future if they do something the “right way.” The social stressors and expectations of our society make it hard for one to live in the moment. The constant reminder of something new, or someone “better” make it so that we can’t cherish whom we are and what we have at this given moment. The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. We must become aware of what we are thinking. We must learn to listen to the voices in our head without judgment. And sometimes we must free ourselves from our mind. Mindfully monitoring on-going thoughts, feelings and sensations without getting caught up in them. Our mind is a tool. It is accessible to us to be used for a “specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down” (Tolle, par. 26). To live is to think. However thinking too much, too compulsively is actually an addiction. I do a lot of aimless thinking, but through mindfulness I can still choose to use my mind to accomplish and get things done. There should be a balance in all that we do.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Living a mindful life, we no longer have to escape in order to feel more fulfilled. Understand that, there isn’t some precious time in the future when all loose ends will be tied up. One of the things that subconsciously is making us unhappy is this continuous search for security, pleasure, or a more easing and comfortable situation, either at a spiritual level, domestic level, or mental level. Make it a point to ask yourself: “What’s going on inside me at this very moment?”. If we learn to stick with ourselves through thick and thin and enter into an unconditional relationship with ourselves as we are now, we will achieve the special art of living in the present moment and a mindful life.
Thanks for reading, xo.