Mindfulness, developing awareness, cultivating compassion…they are all healthy and positive aspects of our being but in the fast pace of the 21st century, people can become impatient in their pursuit and can quickly get caught in the striving nature of attainment. But is this necessarily a bad thing?
Well on the surface one may think so but lets look at what these traits can teach us.
The term ‘Mindful’ has become associated with a more aware, balanced and calm approach and also, quite mistakenly, has been connected mainly with the Buddhist tradition. It is true that many of the current practices of Mindfulness have Buddhist origins ( despite those who would prefer them to be freestanding..) but look closer and we will see that the specific term is really only used overtly in The Eightfold Path, the 3rd of the 4 Noble Truths in Buddhism. In the vast majority of The Buddhas teachings he talks of developing greater awareness, clarity and cultivating ‘a right view’.
The original Pali term for Mindfulness, that became translated by Rhys Davids in 1910, was ‘Sati’. Sati simply means remembering or recollecting. This ties in with the original teachings of developing clarity and awareness, all of which is cultivated by noticing what is arising in the present moment. When we learn to become more present with our experiences, we notice we are no longer dwelling in the future or the past and a certain acceptance of ‘what is’ grows.
So why is this important and how does it help? Well it could be argued that our current culture is very future focused. We live in a disposable world, with products having built in obsolescence and a marketing and media driven society that urges us to upgrade and consume at an alarming rate. This also includes ‘products’ that remove or reduce our suffering in the current moment, such as Mindfulness. As such there is an increasing range of services that imply that by using them, our current uncomfortable emotional or psychological state will vanish. This is not what Sati was meant to be.
As human consumers we are conditioned to believe we need to fix all our problems and sometimes this true. However every product or service is now being advertised as something that solves a problem. Again fine, if its a leaking pipe, a pc virus or tax return, not so true when it comes to matters of the heart and the head. This is where our impatient 21st century mindfulness chasers enter, striving for a calm and balanced mind.
The second noble truth is basically craving and striving causes suffering, wishing we had something we do not or getting rid of something we don’t like. E.g I want peace, I don’t want stress. Its here we find the solution within the problem.
By ‘chasing’ peace down the mindfulness route, we unintentionally create more suffering. However by beginning to notice what we are actually doing – by developing present moment awareness to what is, rather than seeking a time framed future peace – we cultivate the seed of acceptance and challenge the ‘fix it’ mindset.
This can feel very counter intuitive to many, as we have spent most of our lives being taught that if there’s a problem, there’s a way to fix it. Unfortunately this ‘one size fits all’ method does not always work with human beings and it can take time and informed guidance to see it’s benefit. When we do, we stop struggling, we get out of our way and we learn to accept ‘right now, it’ like this’.
May all beings awake and be free.