The Miracle of Mindfulness
Freedom from Suffering
It’s a strange word “mindful” because it really means a mind that is empty of thought. When a mind is empty of thought it is full of life. It is full of everything. It is fully alive. When a mind is full of thought it is cut off from life. When a mind is empty of thought all of life is available.
A mind that is full of thoughts is always living either in the past or the future. A mind of thoughts cannot experience this present moment, which is the only real life there is. So a mind of thoughts lives in a dream world of past or future. Since this is not real, the mind of thoughts experiences suffering in various ways (frustration, disappointment, confusion, doubt, fear, anxiety, grief and anger).
Suffering and Mindfulness
This suffering is a wakeup call to the mind. It’s telling the mind, this is not real. Suffering itself is not real. It’s only a message – sometimes a fierce message – telling you that what you think is in conflict with reality. The way to deal with suffering is not to run away from it, try to get rid of it or distract your attention away from it. The way to deal with suffering is to listen to it. If you don’t listen, you cannot know why it’s here. If you rely on your mind to tell you why suffering is here, you cannot know why it is really here. To deal with suffering, you must be present. You must be mindful. You must let your thoughts go and truly listen in this moment.
This is the only way to true freedom from suffering. The way to freedom from suffering is through suffering not away from it. When you listen to your suffering, without interpreting it through thoughts (as is our conditioned habit), you receive the message of this suffering. This message will lead you from what is not real to what is real. What is not real is your thoughts about life. What is real is life itself without your mental interpretations. Mindfulness is experiencing life as it is free of the distortions of mental interpretation.
Here is a video about the power of listening to our suffering: Listening – The Ultimate Healing
The Miracle of the Present Moment
Simply being present is a miracle. Without the mind’s interference, life is extraordinary, exquisite, perfect, alive and blissful. Simply being present with a mind empty of thoughts is wonderful beyond the mind’s ability to comprehend. Here is the source of bliss, happiness, peace and love beyond concepts. For no reason at all we feel blissfully alive, at one with all existence.
Sitting on my roof today,
the raindrops glitter like diamonds.
How extraordinary it is to be alive.
Conditioned thoughts have hidden this great miracle of life from us. They have hidden the reality of what we are from us. Conditioned thoughts convince us that we are a limited, independent being separate from all of existence. Is it any wonder that we experience suffering, frustration, doubt, sorrow, fear and anger? Caught in this illusion, how could we not?
Mindfulness, a mind empty of thought, is the cure for this illness of illusion and suffering.
Freedom from Thought
There are many spiritual practices that help us be free of attachment to thoughts. Questioning the reality of each thought is one of them.
Byron Katie’s The Work is a practice for questioning every thought we have. It begins with the thoughts that are causing the greatest suffering. Once we realize that this thought is not true, we experience immediate relief from the suffering that comes from believing it. Seeing the results of this often enough encourages us to do this with all of our thoughts. Eventually we realize that no thought that we’ve had has been true and we realize that no thought we ever will have can be true. This gives us enormous freedom from attachment to thoughts. If a thought isn’t true, why attach to it? When we realize this, we don’t.
The Work consists of four questions.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
The first and second questions are similar. The reason for this is because questioning your thoughts is a practice. At first your thoughts are going to insist that this thought is true. After all, you already believe the thought is true. That’s why it’s causing you so much suffering. So you ask a second time and ask is there any possibility that this thought is not true? Is there any situation when this thought might not be true? You look deeply into this thought and question it. Eventually, if you’re honest about this, you have to reach the conclusion that “No, this thought is not always true. There are times when it isn’t true.” Your belief in the thought slowly begins to erode. As your belief dissolves, so does the suffering. Eventually you realize that the thought is just a thought, not reality. And that thought no longer brings you pain. When you are free of the suffering that comes from believing that thought, you already have the answer to the fourth question, “Who would you be without the thought?” You would be free of the suffering that comes from believing that thought. And you answer with your freedom from suffering. How wonderful! You’ve just saved yourself years of therapy bills.
Eventually you realize that no thought is true. This is wonderful freedom. You are no longer attached to thoughts. They no longer rule and control your life. Now you use thoughts (They’re useful.) but they no longer use you. You’re free.
In Self-Inquiry, we question this “I” every time a thought includes this personal pronoun, which is most of the time.
“I like …”
“I don’t like …”
“I want …”
“I don’t want …”
“I think …”
“I believe …”
“I am …”
Who is this “I”? What is this “I”?
Most of us have not looked deeply into this “I” that we believe is who we are. What if it’s not? Self-inquiry is a practice, like meditation. Since we’re always thinking, we always have an opportunity to question our thoughts. This “I” thought is a primary thought, so there is a lot of opportunity to practice.
This is a very deep practice. You will discover that there are many layers to this self-identification. As you let go of one layer after another, you will experience an increasing sense of freedom, peace, joy and love. At times you’ll also experience fear and resistance. You’ve had this sense of self-identity for a very long time, even though without your realization it’s been constantly changing. Yet it still feels very familiar to you. You experience a reluctance to let it go. At this point, you either back off the practice or re-double your efforts. There are always periods of resistance in all spiritual practices. What you do at these turning points determines your success.
The Miracle of Mindfulness
In the end, there’s nothing more to all spiritual practice and teachings than being present. In presence we find the answer to all spiritual questions. Presence itself is the answer to all questions. Most of these answers are beyond the capability of the mind to conceptualize. These answers come in the form of our very being itself and the being of all existence. A thought cannot contain such answers. And yet presence contains all answers.
While our attention is limited to thoughts, we cannot experience presence. Perceiving life through the filter of thoughts is but a dream of past or future. Presence is far too full of life for a thought. When attention is set free from the confines of thought and opens fully to the wondrous reality of life, the miracle of mindfulness is directly realized. All questions are answered in this moment. All suffering ceases. You realize what you are. You realize what life is. You realize there has never been any difference. This is the Miracle of Mindfulness.
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