Why Mindfulness Matters
The capacity that we all have to be present, aware and to notice and observe what we are experiencing without judgment: that’s mindfulness.
Jonn Kabat-Zinn offers that definition of mindfulness, and he does so as a simple reminder to “Be with what is.”
While it sounds simple, mindfulness is not easy. Until you spend a few moments with your own mind as it’s carried away by a constant thought stream, you can begin to see the challenge that comes with this step. It’s a step worth taking.
We all tend to give too much credence to things that happened in the past. None of us can say we don’t spend time worrying about what is yet to come. When any of us face distress or suffering, mindfulness can easily go out the window.
In an unfortunate way, the reality is that we spend little of our time in the intimate space of the present, allowing the moment-to-moment experience to unfold. Much of our suffering comes from a desire to change how the past took place, and that leads into the present moment. We also battle with a sense of control, and we wonder how the future will turn out. We also desire that the difficulties of the moment would go away or be different.
Mindfulness can enable us to nurture our capacity to stay in the present, patiently “walk alongside” whatever we are feeling and show kind, compassionate openness to any and all outcomes we may face.
Many traditions speak of opposing forces within ourselves that are competing for our attention. There is a Native American story that speaks of two wolves, one angry and one loving, which both live inside us. The tradition says that our perspective on life grows based on which wolf we feed, meaning where our energy goes, so too does our attitude.
Too often, it can seem that the easiest path is the one that engages hate or fear. The path of compassion, love, truthfulness and generosity is not easy – it requires much work. Shutting down or turning away – that’s easier. Mindfulness can lead to the harder path, and this metaphor shows how it can help us in our daily life.
When we pay attention to the angry wolf and acknowledge those emotions and thoughts as they arise, we can realize that while they are present, they need not control us or our actions.
With some practice, we hope for more peaceful and happy lives. Mindful living can bring that peace.