(or How to stop Neurotically Nibbling at Life).
The awareness that mindfulness brings pervades our lives. When we initially become aware of the experience of our minds and its contents through meditation, we start to notice everything of which we have been unaware. It seems impossible that we have lived yet not always noticed what is happening around us. Breathing, walking, talking, eating, functioning, yet in a state of cloudy confusion. Not completely understanding the purpose and intention behind what we do.
This is not to suggest that people who do not practise mindfulness live empty lives, but it is possible that when we have achieved survival, comfort and pleasure, we can start to investigate our own reality, become creative and questioning, and bring more meaning to our lives. After all, even the greatest artists within literature and imagery and the greatest thinkers have existential crises.
We are living in a time in the West when many of us have relative ease of living compared to our ancestors. And we are sensory creatures – relating to the world we live in through our contact with the physical. Understandably, we look around us and fall in love. So many beautiful things, so much to excite and distract us. We become sense junkies – od’ing on sense sugar. Our multi-media technology offers us mega choices on who we can relate to, and what, and we latch on as if they were lifeboats. We’re not just surfing the net, but drowning in it, swallowing whatever we think is the cool thing to be right now. What we are actually doing is searching, neurotically nibbling at people and ideas, for meaning and purpose. Perhaps if I look like him I will be happy. I want to look like him. Is this the meaning of my life?
Until we meditate, turn inwards and confront our minds with all its tricks, it is all ephemeral nonsense. External manipulation wrenching us away from what can really bring us the fulfilment, that deep down we are all craving. We cannot find lasting happiness with temporary stimulation. That drink, man, woman, drug, cake will last awhile…fooling us into thinking that this is the source of happiness. But we all know that nothing lasts, and if we grasp onto someone or things for pleasure and satisfaction, it will only keep us going while the desire is being gratified. Even orgasms come to an end (forgive the pun).
Society is no help either. Society is just a bunch of people making up stuff to help everyone get along between birth and death. Once we farmed and bartered, now we buy and sell. So the Big Lie is supported because it’s good for the economy. The Big Lie is that “they” know what they’re doing. But how can they? They’re just as messed up as the rest of us. All of us have tendencies of our own making, and we are all conditioned by what came before. Society sells us a dream – an illusion. We can’t blame them out there for doing this to us, we are doing it to ourselves constantly. We’re not being led astray. We approve of materialism and hedonism – it’s the only way we can get our kicks. Feel alive, not half dead zombies. We can hear those voices in our heads, “If I have that man I’ll be happy. If I have his baby, I’ll be happy.” It never stops. There may be brief periods of contentment but the novelty soon wears off and then we’re looking out there for something new. Take relationships as a typical common example. What do we do if we’re dumped? We cry for a while. Feel miserable for a while. We’re totally convinced we’ll never find another one like her, and then we do, move on, find someone we like even better and wonder why we were so obsessed with the former! It’s kind of ridiculous. It feels childish. This is what children do. We are quixotic.
There is no choice except to become mindful, if we want to achieve anything in our lives that will benefit us and benefit society genuinely. Why? Because we cannot stabilize our happiness and just be content. Because desire itself is never satisfied. That aspect of our minds that is always seeking satisfaction is a product of our own making. And it too is an illusion. A delusion, one might say. Making us crazy for comfort. Giving us insatiable appetites for more.
Desire is a giant, carnivorous, man-eating monster that just wants to keep gobbling. There may be brief pauses for the purpose of digestion, but the gobbling never stops. Eventually we become cannibals and gobble up ourselves. Job done, life over. Maybe even the planet we live on.
The mindful answer is to find a way of being that is not dependent on external sources of gratification. We can still have the stuff and people, but with the practice of mindful psychology we lose the insecurities and the fear driven obsessive behaviour that accompanies it. We no longer depend on sensory stimuli and we are not controlled by our greed for sense gratification. There is an experience of independence and wholeness that is not reliant on other. Mindfulness offers us insight into our very nature, our mode of being human. By becoming more familiar with our minds, and with guidance and support from those with knowledgeable experience, we can start to disentangle our fantasies from reality and have an approach to happiness that is more grounded in reality and therefore more likely to bring fulfilment. We lose the neediness and gain self-assurance. We become inner beings. Try that phrase on for size. It fits well, doesn’t it?
All the great movements and decisions of the day are being made by people who have awareness. Because awareness enables you to see through the lie, face up to the truth of our conditioning and become engaged with meaningful change that does not just bring temporary relief, like band aid.
We have arrived at a time in history when, exhausted and broken by greed, we are beginning to look in the right places for our happiness. We are getting to the root cause of our shared malaise. Hooray.
For a healthy mind we need a similar approach to having a healthy body. If we’ve been bingeing on cakes and cookies for years then we’re going to need help to stop. The cakes and cookies of our minds are the destructive mental and emotional thoughts and habits that create tendencies for the same tastes, the same effects, the same cycle of eat, swallow, digest, want more. Even though one part of us knows this is bad for us.
Temporary release leads to a cycle of temporary releases. We have a problem, we are stressed, we have a few glasses, then we wake up the next day and the problem is back. We had a temporary break. It didn’t get sorted. It just got shelved. The problem is still there.
With meditation and mindful living we become familiar with our minds. We are able to see through the tricks of our ego-identity. That aspect of ourselves that is the greedy monster but whom we now recognize is just a scared baby, confused and a little troubled by life, the world, existence.
Unlike junkie beings, inner beings are directed by insight, awareness and understanding. This has incredible knock on side effects – self- awareness, self- esteem, empathy and compassion, to list a few. This is not rocket science, which is actually less important to the survival of human-kind. This is mind science. If we engender a society that is motivated by inner wealth then we might all find the happiness we seek. Understand that happiness is like gold. If we buy it from the jewelers, it will adorn us for a while. But if we realise the source of it is inside ourselves, and dig for it, we can mine it for a lifetime.