There is a huge interest in mindfulness right now, and rightly so. It is an extraordinary practice that has the capacity to elicit incredible personal growth, wisdom and insight.
Sometimes though I think the mainstream narrative doesn’t run deep enough. We see mindfulness as a place of silence and peace away from the chaotic busyness of modern life.
It certainly is, able to provide a haven for the overwhelmed and over stimulated. But it is also so much more.
Scratch the surface of the practice and you start to develop greater and greater awareness of the patterns of your mind body and heart, how they intertwine and where your personal identity, behaviours and responses come from.
It’s effectively slow and peaceful therapy.
But it’s also so much more than even that. It’s a pathway to a sense of mysticism and divinity. Modern secular mindfulness has often stripped any talk of divinity out of the practice, but go deep enough into your self and you cannot help but meet the breath-taking and awesome mystery of this life and the interconnectedness of all things.
Spend a weekend away on a meditation retreat and you will absorb the natural world in an entirely new and profound way. It will pulse and creep and shine with energy that was previously unnoticed as you rushed to grab your keys, jump in the car and race to work, or your friends, or wherever you happen to be going in our incredibly over-scheduled lives.
And the funny thing about mindfulness, is that after a while, you start to wonder which came first – the busy mind or the busy life? Is our inability to concentrate and our frantic busyness a product of our schedules? Or are our overburdened routines a symptom of our collective inability to sit with silence and truth?
After almost 16 years of mindfulness practice, I notice that my mind becomes busy when I fail to pay attention to my intuition, to where my heart and soul is leading me. Struggling to come to terms with what is happening in my life, I automatically seek to fill up every waking moment to avoid sitting with myself.
And so I create busyness all around. I dive into work, into Facebook, into some other distraction to avoid paying attention to the whispers of my soul. Because usually listening to my soul involves risk and uncertainty, it involves a fear of disappointing the ones I love as I step outside of the comfort zones we have collectively agreed upon.
Real mindfulness is about learning to sit with that difficulty and that discomfort and becoming an open and deeply non-judgemental listener and advocate for your inner world.
It’s not just a nice peaceful moment in a stressful day or a holiday break that calms the nerves – it’s a way of life that involves courage and truth and heart and mystery.
It’s about leaning in to find out who you really are after you drop the iPhone and the schedules and the roles that you identify with so strongly.
When I really listen, and I mean really, really listen, I discover a pathway laid out before me. A job I need to leave or take, a relationship that I’ve outgrown. It’s hard to lean in sometimes. But I notice that the more I open to myself, the more my inner world becomes peaceful, bright and joyfully alive.
I used to be terrified of disappointing people. But I have seen again and again how listening and following my own sense of inner truth can be initially challenging for my nearest and dearest, but often points them in a new direction that is eventually beneficial for them too.
To me, this points to the interconnectedness of all things.
We are not separate and when one person shifts towards greater and greater authenticity, there is an almost magical energetic transmission that happens that gives others the permission to be who and how they actually are as well.
And who are we really?
Mindfulness teaches us again and again to come back home to our bodies, our hearts and our minds, to show up fully for the never ending mystery of discovering Who We Actually Are. In so doing we touch on something profound and universal that points to ourselves and this life as being more awesome, beautiful and magical than our tiny egoic minds could possibly comprehend.