6 October 2020

Grand Narratives (III)

Where and how do you ‘situate’ mindfulness in your life? The previous two posts overview why this is a valuable question to consider. Wise reflection is an essential part of practice. Without it, we lose our bearings. Similarly, if we do not develop self-reflexivity, we become blind to how we are swayed by assumptions and narratives that may not be coherent, useful or true.

Mining your beliefs about mindfulness is always illuminating. It reveals what you identify with and, by extension, something about the nature of identity. It deepens your practice by opening up new channels for it. Nothing is off limits on the path of awareness. Mindfulness meets its potential in its engagement with the fundamentals of existence – meaning, identity, freedom, death – without any compulsive fascination but with the greatest sensitivity.

What’s the Story?

Below are fifteen avenues for self-enquiry. You could parachute any one of them into your depths and see how it lands. You could do this in any way you choose, such as through contemplation, dialogue or artistic expression. The method is not the point. The point is to give time to exploring yourself deeply.

  • Why do I practise mindfulness? In what specific ways does my practice give me a sense that I am making the most out of life?

  • Do I deliberately cultivate or aspire to attain particular mental states through meditation? Why?

  • How is my practice informed by ideas about health and connection? What does health mean to me?
    What about connection?

  • Do I believe that mindfulness practice is linked to wisdom, empathy or ethical engagement? Why? If I hold no such beliefs, what capacities do I believe my practice links to?

  • Who or what garners my interest, respect or adoration in the mindfulness world? Who or what does the opposite, perhaps even repels me? What do my preferences have to tell me?

  • If I achieved my goals in life, what would change about my practice? Would I approach it differently? Would I relate to others and the world differently? What role would mindfulness assume in how I conducted my life?

  • How do I view the current human era? Do I perceive a crisis or end-time? Do I believe there is a great turning, a new era beckoning? Do I believe neither? What ideas does my mind harbour about human existence over time? 

  • Do I hold particular beliefs about the nature of reality? Who or what do I have abiding trust or confidence in? What do the paradigms of science, materialism, religion and spirituality mean to me? How do these relate to practising mindfulness? How are my beliefs in turn affected by my practice? If all such ideas are insignificant to me, do I think that I have no metaphysical beliefs, that I am free of all baggage? If so, what is this belief?

  • What do I consider mind to be? A non-physical, personal faculty? An impersonal process? A function of the brain in the skull? An emergent property of energy? Something else?

  • What do I understand to be the relationship(s) between body and mind? 

  • When I am mindfully aware of thoughts, who or what do I think is doing the thinking?

  • How does my practice contribute to my self-image and/or inform my sense of being part of something bigger than me (e.g. a community of sentient beings, a transcendent value, a cosmological matrix)?

  • How are self-worth, personal popularity, status or material ambition bound up in my motivations to practise? If I think none of these are factors, what other anxieties or insecurities might compel me to keep practising?

  • If I knew I had one month to live, would mindfulness practice figure in my plans? If so, to what degree? What would be meaningful about spending time in this way? 

  • Do I hold particular beliefs about what happens to consciousness upon physical death? How do these beliefs affect my practice?

The Power of Practice

Recently I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. We had planned to walk and talk on the seafront but a high wind ma...