Inspired by Tara Brach talk: Happy for No Reason, Part 2.
“When you go to a garden do you look at thorns or flowers? Spend more time with roses and jasmine” -Rumi
Awareness is the intention of mindfulness practice. And working with what is there is also part of the moment and the practice. We know now of the ‘darkside’ of neuroplasticity: our biological negativity bias primes us to pay most attention to threat and danger. Unaware we allow that bias to become the habit of mind. Awareness invites us to tune into those habitual patterns: we notice the mind’s bias for the negative and how that narrows our perspective and restricts our actions. Yet we can also remember ‘positive neuroplasticity’: that we equally have a natural capacity for goodwill, peace and joy. How that cultivates the space, the bigger picture, the broader perspective. Helping us to be with those difficult moments in this broader compassionate space.
Mindfulness practice helps us to become aware, to cultivate a space for wise responding in life. From that space we can create different habits of mind, habits of mind that cultivate that goodwill and ‘gladden the mind’. Where will that lead us then? An ocean of possibility. The joyful mystery of living unfolds. Being with all that is, in midst of challenge and difficulty, acknowledging and recognising that and also acknowledging and recognising the goodwill and kindness that is there too. Back and forth. Ebb and flow. Riding those waves of life. With an ease rather than a forceful grasping.
We can actively notice and cultivate our natural goodwill in 3 easy ways:
- Gratitude: Appreciating 3 things each day, no matter how small or mechanical this act seems to be. Studies show that writing these 3 things down over 15 days, most of us feel different, with a more positive outlook in life. Sharing these with others and we feel more connected too. How can you cultivate the attitude of gratitude today?
- Serving: We are biased for self-referential thinking, addicted to it even. Again this is linked to our threat thinking loop. Being less self-absorbed is less painful though. And connecting with others and having meaning in life helps. Studies show that when we give to others, the pleasure spots in our brains light up. As simple as a kind thought, look, or wish for others we can cultivate that attitude of friendliness towards all. What random act of kindness can you offer today?
- Savouring: How often do we simply allow ourselves to receive the pleasurable moments in life? To recognise that this is enough. The surprise hug from a loved one, the sweet song of the garden robin, a cool breeze or warm sun on your face, a kindly message from a friend. Name it, savour it, sensing in the body where we feel the moment – the smell, the sound, the touch, the taste, the felt emotion in the body; acknowledging that ‘this is a happy moment’. Can you allow yourself to receive these happy moments today?
Try it and see what happens!
May I be happy, my dear friend may you be happy, may all beings everywhere be happy. Though it may not be so. May it be so.