”Mindfulness may begin from calling past experience to mind, gathering together the parts of us that have been scattered across time, but the whole idea of learning from the past implies an orientation towards the future. What we learn from experience will help us anticipate the likely fruits of present action, and this demands a concern for our future life and a sense that what will happen is – at least to some extent – in our own hands. Mindfulness thus involves an awareness of not only where we have come from but where we are going”.
Leading a meaningful life and having meaningful relationships with others are important factors for happiness to arise but equally we need to be making a certain kind of effort working on ourselves.
Recently I was on a 2 week solitary meditation retreat in the south of Spain, I was forced to be with myself with no distractions, i.e no mobile or netflix! The retreat was not always easy, but by the end the quality of my mental and emotion states were better than usual. One of the main reasons for this was gently going deeper into my own experience and being more honest about how I was and working effectively in meditation from there. A bigger perspective on live opened up and I noticed a certain quality of happiness arising on the basis of that. With this perspective and experience I was able to review 2016 and look at some changes I needed to make. Changes that I hope will lead to a richer internal life.
Most of us are very busy with life and pulled in several directions, if we are not careful the tendency is to live on the surface just getting by. I notice this particularly with work which is sometimes high pressured. If my awareness fragments my experience narrows down and I loose touch with a ‘bigger picture’. In other words I loose touch with purpose and direction and start feeling oppressed, in those moments happiness goes out the window!
Meditation or some form of it seems to me vital for the health of the human mind. Formal daily sitting practice is important but not enough if we want to have an effective practice of meditation and mindfulness. We need to allow some other time in the day to ‘sink deeper’ into felt experience and learn to be with that. We need to find ways of doing that, it could be a mindful walk or time sitting at home with a coffee or tea noticing how we are. If we can be with ourselves in this way at least some of the time, positive and deeper reflections will arise which will help enrich experience and maybe more importantly prompt us to make changes as my solitary retreat helped me to do.
It is easy to underestimate the importance of learning to be with ourselves. It’s difficult and there are so many more apparently interesting things to do! The less I do this the more I tend to ‘eat’ into formal sitting practice trying to figure out how I am deeper down. You can’t really move forward if you don’t know where you are or what you are working with. If you want to practice mindfulness and meditation effectively you will need to take an honest look at your life in this way.
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”
The main reason that we don’t live in the present moment and enjoy life more fully is that we have neither got the tools nor the time to do so, often we are in no fit state to do so either. We often loose contact with what is is that give rise to happiness. We can’t enjoy things if we are wound up, stressed out, exhausted, or moody! To enjoy something we need an enjoyable focus – a stroll in the beautiful parc de Monjuic, a most beautiful place to visit with breathtaking views of Barcelona and the coastline – and we need to be in a state of mind that is receptive enough, clear enough, calm enough, to enjoy things. Simply surrounding ourselves with all that money can buy won’t do it. If we are down we sometimes look towards a quick fix. We need to be in a good state of mind in order to enjoy life and connect with deeper experience. So little is said about the mind and how we experience things. We miss the one thing that absolutely determines how we experience everything life has to offer and throws at us. That is our mind! Our state of mind determines how we respond to everything! Contrary to popular belief wealth in itself won’t bring us happiness. I believe happiness in a by-product of living a life where we are in touch with what we really value and who we really value, in other words it’s a crucial investment to keep the important relationships and friendships in our lives in good repair.