When in reaction to situations in life – consciously or unconsciously – we are often not reacting to what is actually going on, but to our own inner perception and interpretation of what is going on. This perception and interpretation is coloured by our conditioned beliefs and thought patterns as well as whatever emotional state we are in and any emotional charge the situation may trigger in the many layers of our psyche.
Tied in with our perception and inner reaction, is any investment we may have in the outcomes of the situation. Frustration, aggression, fear and other negative feelings come from concerns of loss in terms of our expectations, hopes and goals and our need or greed to have things our way for a sense of validation, power as well as some sort of emotional or material gain. Add to this, deep or subtle vulnerabilities about self belief, any compromised faith in variables of any situation in terms of what they mean about us or others involved, and we have the main basis for the elements in our lives becoming stressors and challenges that create a roller coaster ride out of our personal experience in dealing with things that matter.
Many personal resources and tools can be gained through insight, self work on conditioned thinking and developing skills in creating success in whatever areas of our life that are at stake.
However, the most foundational game changer is a simple though not necessarily so easy, ability to be consciously present in the moment and shift our identity from thoughts, feelings, self image and life situations so we can observe our own perceptual interpretations and create space to discern, refine and adjust them.
To establish our core identity in the essence of our own pure consciousness and life energy in the present moment, independent of the constant stream of content of our personal experience, creates a sense of freedom of being and greater choice in how to deal with life. More challenges can be transformed into opportunity to be creative, express or aliveness and cultivate positive outcomes.
Mindfulness practice, often subtle and even difficult for those commencing this path, is also best done somewhat differently from other achievements. It is subjective inner work to become more conscious of what is already present here and now, rather than achieving something we don’t already have. It is not so much something to be achieved in the future as it is a realisation then maintenance of attention on what is already here and now without our own separate effort.
Through the awareness of thought and feeling from a place of presence and observation, the space can be created to observe, gain insight and notice the subliminal narrative going on in our minds, which can have the following tangible results:
- to become aware of the mind content,
- to separate out the subtle mental dialogue or narrative from the situation occurring,
- “as is” the situation and our own inner reaction with non-judgement acceptance,
- be at choice to accept or release our inner narrative and its effect on how we perceive the situations,
- turn negative or limiting beliefs, decisions and interpretations into more positive and constructive ones, before
- being present with the narrative and the situation while exercising conscious spaciousness, stillness and silence of mindful presence in faith and trust, then finally
- seeing what comes out of simply being fully present throughout a situation and mindfully responding to it with open heart and mind in a truly proactive way that aligns with values and bringing out the best of the situation and those involved.
What is the difference between performing in life situations to consistently and consciously create our own life journey, versus acting reactively and unconsciously so that we are sometimes our own worst enemy and often slaves to conditioned thinking, compromising outcomes while battling to keep pride and a sense of being right intact.
Living in the universal flow from loving mindfulness depends on where your attention is directed in the moment and predominantly over time. It is a balance of conscious presence of being, in honesty with thoughts and actions. By consciousness, I am referring to that present awareness from which thoughts and experience arises and can be observed as practiced in many meditations and meditative activities.
Paramahansa Yogananda sometimes told a wonderful story of a King in India’s ancient past who was considered an enlightened guru to devotees and the kingdom he ruled. One day, one of his devout subjects asked him how the he could remain so transcendent and established in awakened consciousness as a King amidst the many duties and responsibilities of ruling a kingdom while living in a palace amongst extravagant material wealth which could easily become objects of desire, attachment and identity.
The devout subject had doubts about whether such wealth made it easier for the king to emanate such divine happiness or whether it was more a hinderance. Understanding this dilemma could better help him clarify his own journey of awakening and his relationship to the world.
The King observed the subject enviously looking around at the vast rooms and trinkets in the palace. He also recognised the sincerity of his question. So the King filled an ornate bowl to the rim with an oil and gave it to the subject.
The King said, “Please carry this bowl with you around the palace without spilling a drop and memorise every object in each room”. This task took a number of days for the subject to be able to recall all the objects in each room. Meantime, he held the bowl with great care as he stood and walked from room to room, knowing that it would only take a momentary lapse in concentration for him to spill a drop of the oil. Finally, he came back to the King and while still holding the bowl steadily he simultaneously recounted the many objects in each of the many rooms of the palace.
The King acknowledged him and then said, “Just as you have consistently maintained this full bowl of oil during your task, so does the awakened mind consistently maintain mindful presence throughout performing worldly tasks during each moment of life. Just as you have memorised each and every trinket in the palace, so have you learned non-attachment with your attention on the enormous task of memorising them all. Carry your inner attention as devoutly as you have the bowl without spilling a drop of open minded awareness. Attend to your life duties and relationships with the same devout attention as you have in memorising each and every item in this palace. In this way, you will be a King of your own Self and transform your heart and mind into a palace of wisdom, devotion and love”.
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