The Challenges and Pitfalls
We put so much of effort to teach and learn arts, sports, science, mathematics, engineering, medicine and business. But we do not seem to put much effort towards the most important and fundamental aspects of our life: our emotions, our joy, our suffering, our well-being and what it means to be a human. Mindfulness is the most important gift that we can give to ourselves towards our happiness and well-being. But we do not seem to recognize its importance properly. Otherwise, it would have been an integral part of our society and the world would have been a far more peaceful and harmonious place.
It is not that mindfulness concepts and practices are difficult, but very subtle to go deeper. As it deals with internal mind states, it becomes harder to explain verbally, and any explanation ends up looking fuzzy. To make things worse, these practices have been muddled with so much of nonsense and too much of rituals.
Since we easily recognize the external growth and its benefits, we heavily focus on the external factors like wealth, power and fame. It would take time and wisdom to clearly see through their associated struggles, sufferings and meaninglessness. On the other hand, it is not obvious to recognize the internal growth such as peace and joy - especially in the initial stages, and its benefits are intangible to see.
Our brain easily recognizes a sudden spike of pleasure or relief. That leads to reward based reinforcement to motivate us to pursue it again. But the spike does not last longer and we always come back to the square one, except we end-up with more craving and addiction. In contrast, the internal growth through mindfulness practices happens slowly step by step, so it does not lead to reward based reinforcement. Hence it is challenging to motivate ourselves and continue to practice. It takes time and sensitivity to recognize its steady and lasting growth and its benefits. Hence the need for proper discipline and strong determination.
All our psychic irritations and neuroses stem from our constant craving and our fear of facing even slightest discomforts such as boredom and aloneness. Our mind is heavily deluded with these defilements that lead to suffering and hinder our well-being and happiness.
Then we hear about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices. But we end-up choosing and practicing from the same old place of the original root causes of our neuroses. These practices become just another drug or pain-killer to suppress and escape from our psychic irritations. We end-up using improper methods and techniques, and indulging in rituals, spiritual materialism, etc.
This means that we should clearly understand the reason and logic behind mindfulness and meditation practices. There is absolutely no place for any blind faith. We should go beyond falling for temporary escaping or suppressing techniques and focus on proper growth and well-being. A proper mindfulness practice is like undergoing an operation without anesthetics. So it is very important to find a good teacher who can properly guide through the process towards developing clarity and cultivating wisdom.
Based on some vague and misguided idea about these practices, often people come to a wrong or half-cooked conclusion. They may develop unrealistic or impractical attitude, so they give up their practice or postpone or get stuck. With the proper understanding and practice, mindfulness becomes transformative!
14 December 2017