Mindfulness as Mental Development and to Soften the Heart

The word “mindful” has become a part of our everyday language at this point.  We use it freely to describe experience.  It’s important to remember the origins of the word which is found in Gautama discourse, “Foundations of Mindfulness” (Satipatthana Sutta) in the Pali Canon.

Some say it’s the most important discourse the Buddha gave about mental development,  leading to:

– the purification of our beings

– a means to overcome sorrow and distress

– allieviate pain and sadness

– sets us on the right path

– and to realize Nirvana

This being mindful applies to our whole experience of being in the moment:  being aware of our bodies, our feelings, what happens in our minds, and what objects we pay attention to.

The simple instructions on how to do this, mindfully paying attention to the breath without any attempt to control or interfere with the moment to moment experience of the breath becomes harder when we try to follow the instructions.

Stephen Batchelor writes in “The Foundations of Mindfulness”

Yet for many this seemingly straightforwrd exercise turns out to be remarkably tricky.  One finds that no matter how sincere one’s intention to be attentive and aware, the mind rebels against such instructions and races off to indulge in all manner of distractions, memories, and fantasies.  One is forced to confront the sobering truth that one is only notionally “in charge” of one’s psychological life.  The comforting illusion of personal coherence and continuity is ripped away to expose only gragmentary islands of consciousness separated by yawning gulfs of unawareness.  Similarily, the convenient fiction of a well-adjusted, consistent personality turns out to be merely a skillfully edited and censored version of a turbulent psyche.  The first step in this practice of mindful awareness is radical self-acceptance.” 

The first step that Batchelor writes aobut, this radical self-acceptance, is difficult when there’s trauma and attachment issues.  We’re so prone to judging ourselves, criticizing what we’re doing, rejecting ourselves first before anyone else can.

Cultivating self-acceptance can be seen as the moment to moment experience of softening our hearts, loving what’s felt so broken inside.

Learning first to remember the love that is available to us in the world (yes, I can hear you groan, especially if you have felt so hurt and rejected.)  Yet, even as you groan there may be some fragment inside, underneath all the hurt and dismay that says, “Yes, it shouldn’t be this way.  It shouldn’t be this hard.”

That small voice is the voice to pay attention to.  That small voice knows something, knows that you “should have been loved.”

Love is the natural order of the universe.  We cry for it.  We feel it’s loss.  We baracade our hearts so we don’t get hurt, don’t feel disappointed or betrayed.

It is possible to wash away those painful defenses.  It is absolutely possible to return to the original connection of love.

We do that one moment at a time.  Finding love right now, right here, over and over again, a thousand different times, every day, all day.

One of the best resources you can find on the topic of self-acceptance is Christopher Germer’s book, The Mindful Path of Self-Compassion  available in the bookstore second page.

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