A pie for an eye? Why kindness and interconnectivity really matter

The notion of ‘an eye for an eye’ is that a negative act should warrant a similar reprisal as compensation. If I lose an eye, you lose an eye in return, jab! However, ‘What if the perpetrator was our own family?’ or ‘ourselves?’. Would we want to create harm to ourselves for the sake of revenge? Heard of the expression ‘cutting off your nose to spite you face’? Yet this is exactly what we do every time we seek revenge or retribution.

We are all connected in this world, not just on some notional hand holding ‘I see man as my brother’  level – although that’s really nice.  But something deeper.  An intrinsic connection at a very fundamental level, the fabric of reality.  Whereby we are all part of the same collective consciousness of mind.

We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality . . . Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world. This is the way our universe is structured; this is its interrelated quality. 
Martin Luther King

With a feeling that I really am being too ambitious in attempting to articulate what I mean, here goes.

Conditioning

What happens when you close your eyes to sleep at night? More than likely your mind brings up thoughts. Even those people that fall asleep very quickly, like me, have some mental activity.  Paying attention to these thoughts is pretty interesting, even if a little distracting from the goal of sleep. Watching my thoughts I have observed the following. Most of what is thought, is related to what has happened in my preceding period of life or what is being planned for the future. Many years ago, back in my darker days, I used to play cards pretty seriously for money and had terrible trouble during that time falling asleep. I was always analyzing events and thinking what I could have done differently or better. Thankfully, my life is a lot less stressed now, but still perhaps there is some incident from the day. Someone was rude to me, perhaps I said something I later regretted or perhaps I just finished watching or listening to something and its was repeating in my mind. The point is, that there is this kind of momentum in thinking that continues.

This is not really surprising as we are conditioned beings, but don’t take my word for this:

We are what we do.
Fromm

 

We are what we do repeatedly
Aristotle

 

Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
Ghandi
The unconditioned

Meditators know this problem from a different angle, they are not trying to sleep but to stay fully and sharply aware while clearing their minds. But, just as with sleep, the events and thoughts of the day have a certain momentum that needs some quietening. So an experienced meditator begins a sitting using various techniques to clear their mind of thoughts, this could involve concentration on bodily sensations, counting breaths or beads; something to stop indulgence in thoughts.

In addition to preparation activities, an important observation from my practice is that having a ‘peaceful’ meditation often requires some cultivation of wholesome stimuli throughout the day. Some people advocate meditating in the morning, before the mind really cranks up its torrent of activity as a solution to thinking bouncing around in the mind; in the morning most people have fairly quite minds. However, I frequently find I don’t have the time in the morning, I have two young kids whose needs are a priority over my own. By the time I finally want to sit and meditate, events have already transpired. Cultivating a good day is an excellent approach, but not always under my control, perhaps then at least I can make peace with the agitations and to let go of the future plans for the duration of the meditation, this is a skill that times some learning – letting go. However, sometimes events are ongoing rather than limited to a particular day, so cultivating a good life becomes important.  

Even if you do not meditate, hopeful you can relate to the experience of thoughts being a continuation of what has taken place or needs to take place. Its easier to sleep when you are not stressed out, just as its easier to meditate under calm conditions. We also have some control over the conditions that precede our attempt at quietening the mind. 

‘We’ are what we do

One rather startling realisation that changed my view of the world was a result of the mental chatter at the start of the mediation. As per normal, my initial sitting involved the bombardment of thoughts and stimuli. Lots of little things from the day came up in my mind.  But, what happened next was really interesting. For small periods of time, my mind stimuli ceased and with them my experiences of the external world also stopped. Instead, I was left with this awareness of nothing, it was a powerful observation, punctured periodically by thoughts but nonetheless a taste of something quite calm.  The thought then occurred to me, that the physical world of existence which is made up of everything we sense, people, sounds, touches, speech, etc. – a world which incidentally is the world that the vast majority of people experience as their only world – is mostly responsible for the content of the mind and its thoughts. The mind (aka egoic mind for the ‘Eckhart  Tolleites’) is just this reaction to the stimuli to which it has been presented or acquired, just a maelstrom of conditioning. Most of what I think of as me, my thoughts and experiences, are actually the result of external stimuli.

So if my mind is this reaction to stimuli, then ‘What is really me?’  and ‘What am I without stimuli to react to? ‘  This was the first part of something big for me.

They are what I do

This developed a bit further, if my egoic mind is a reaction to the external, then other minds must also be a reaction to the external.  Since I am human and you are human, thus we are human. So others then are a reaction to my mind and at the same time my mind is a reaction to them.  We are both conditioned by the world and at the same time conditioning the world. There is then, this interplay between beings, between all things, some degree of taking in and giving out, where neither is independent and all are codependent. This is the Martin Luther’s “network of mutuality”. Incidentally, this moment felt like the ground beneath my feet giving way, something profound shifting underneath me, not at all unpleasant, very spacious actually. So, if this thing I took to be ‘myself‘ was constructed mostly of input from things outside of me, then I am intrinsically intertwined with these external things and they with me; we are all dancing together in this world.

What now?

This idea really had a profound impact for me, from that moment, I have had the belief that everything I do shapes the collective consciousness of the world, everything is part of the dance where each of us reacts to each other. Every good act to the external world (which is actually not external but rather just the world), has the potential to create a better world for me personally, and likewise bad acts have the potential to create a worse world for me. Thus small changes that I can make throughout my day, much like the lighting of a candle to bring light into the world (see my post on positivity) help to shape the world into something better.

We reap what we sow
This idea is not new, just about every religious or ethical doctrine has this notion at its heart.  They all give a high priority to the ‘golden rule’:
“Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I”
Sutta Nipata, Pali Canon
“Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself”,
Prophet Muhammad
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Gospel of Matthew
Likewise, ethical philosophers such as Kant also came to a similar conclusion:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”
 Immanuel Kant
So how does this shape my world?

Well, I now have a choice every moment of the day, I can create a better me or a worse one, and this involves what I do to others. For example, If I am driving my car, I choose to be rude, to not let others in front of me, to be selfish. This would create the scene whereby the world is more selfish and others behavior would be a little more conditioned.  I should not then be surprised if others treat me similarly, since they are just reflecting me, by hurting them, I am hurting me; the dance gets nastier. The alternative is that I could drive nicely, I could let people out at junctions, I could smile and laugh, even when faced with rudeness and hostility. This would give others the view that the world is positive and friendly and they would be so conditioned in future to believe that of the world. Perhaps this has an impact on their world and their behavior; the dance gets better. I am not overly naive, I accept that this won’t shift many people, but perhaps one or two, who then act differently and so the interconnected interplay goes. Being kind to others is being kind to myself.

The feeling of inter-connectivity, that I am everyone else and they are me, is really a beautiful notion. It promotes care and consideration for the entire world, since all of the world shapes what we are individually and collectively. We really are that connected, we are made of the world and the world is made of us, we are all the world together. What better motivation is there to put out kindness into this world than that.

Thanks for reading, peace.

PS There is a deeper realisation too, namely that we are not the mind at all, but rather a conscious observer of the dance of being. But, this is something I cannot easily write about just yet.

How to nurture a life of simpler happiness

Modern life looks complicated with many ties, but it needn’t be. This simple short story illustrates how a small problem can develop and overwhelm us.

—–

When I was in my thirties I lived for a year in a simple room in the country with few possessions and commitments. I enjoyed my simple life of walking, meditating, writing and peace. I had few possessions, just my clothes, some money to last the year and a few articles for writing.  

All was well, until one day I woke and noticed a hole in my only pair of trousers. Some investigation led me to believe that the hole was caused by a mouse nibbling through the material. To protect my trousers, I decided to get a cat to keep the mouse away.

However, the cat soon got hungry and needed feeding. Initially I just bought her some milk but I grew tired of walking to the shops, so I formed another plan; I should get a cow! Yes, a cow to provide the milk to feed the cat to keep the mouse away.

This idea though, provided complications.  The cat was more easily fed but the cow was more tricky. So out I went  to buy some cattle feed. Once again, this involved a walk to the shops and again, I soon grew tired or this chore. I needed a new plan. So I decided to buy a small field next to my house. The cow could then graze and I would have the milk to feed my cat to keep the mouse away.

However, the grass began to grow too long too fast and the field needed maintaining. Hmmm, I thought, I need a small tractor. If I had a tractor I could then cut the grass, so my cow could graze and I would have the milk to feed my cat to keep the mouse away.

Soon though, this plan proved problematic too, the tractor needed fuel.  The solution I chose was to sell some milk and some hay to buy the fuel.  The fuel for the tractor, so I could cut the grass, my cow could graze and I would have the milk to feed my cat to keep the mouse away.

My days by this time quite full, I was milking, mowing, selling the surplus, my trousers were without holes but I had little time for the simple life that I had enjoyed. If only I just bought a needle and thread and lived peacefully alongside the mouse.

—–

We make our lives so complicated by taking on more and more things that need care and attention in the false belief that they will bring us happiness. What we end up doing though, is becoming slaves to their maintenance or procurement. We just add another problem on top of other problems. The happiness is then ‘just around the corner’ but the corner never comes.

Choosing a simple life that does not add extra unnecessary responsibility seems far wiser. Cutting down on the things in our lives is one way to achieve this goal.

Enjoy!

Living as art, mindfulness and alchemy

Alchemy is the alluring art of turning ordinary base metals into gold. For many years scientists spent hours mixing powders, fluids, cleaning soot and smoke off their faces in their attempts to succeed and find untapped wealth. Some were driven mad by their efforts but all ultimately failed and now alchemy is a long forgotten footnote in history. But, they were approaching it wrong, it is possible!  The mistake they made is that they aimed too low; they only considered metals. How about turning anything mundane into gold? Don’t think of King Midas, this is not that kind of notion. This take on alchemy involves turning everyday living into something better, something golden. So it’s a different kind of alchemy- one that involves seeing life as golden. By practising the art of mindful alchemy everyday we become an artist;  we practice ‘artfulness’  or if you prefer we practice art in everyday living.

Art in my life involves the practice of daily activities in a way that uplifts my consciousness and reveals the spiritual and aesthetic harmony in my world.  Indeed, the late Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa said:

meditative experience might be called genuine art. Such art is not designed for exhibition or broadcast. Instead, it is a perpetually growing process in which we begin to appreciate our surroundings in life, whatever they may be-it doesn’t necessarily have to be good, beautiful, and pleasurable at all. The definition of art, from this point of view, is to be able to see the uniqueness of everyday experience. Every moment we might be doing the same things-brushing our teeth every day, combing out hair every day, cooking our dinner every day. But that seeming repetitiveness be-come unique every day. A kind of intimacy takes place with the daily habits that you go though and the art involved in it. That’s why is called art in everyday life.

Chogyam Trungpa

This concept always leaves me with a sense of involvement in my own life. It gives me a confident resolve and fearlessness to put attention and love into my world. This blog started in part as an inspiration from his writing. The idea of writing was difficult for me, partly due to some shyness and partly to avoid conceit.  Chogyam cautioned:

When we talk about art, we could be referring to somebody deliberately expressing the beauty and frightfulness or the mockery and crudeness of the world that we live in, in the form of poetry, pictures or music. That kind of art could be said to be somewhat deliberate art. It is not so much for yourself, but it is more an exhibition, however honest and genuine the artist may be. Such an artist may say he simply composed his poem because he felt that way. But if that’s the case, why should he write it down on a piece of paper and date it? If its just purely for himself, it does not need to be recorded. Whenever a need for recording you work of art is involved, then there is a tendency toward awareness of oneself: “If I record that brilliant idea I’ve developed, in turn, quite possible accidentally, somebody might happen to see it and think we of it.” There’s that little touch involved, however honest and genuine it may be.

Chogyam Trungpa

So I am left with this dichotomy, I started this blog just for me but there is this little touch of exhibition, subscribers, viewers, etc. Trungpa went on to say, never sell your art, doing so destroys the art of it.

Getting back to topic, the notion of living art really uplifts my daily world, specifically 1) fearlessness of expression and 2) that it’s okay not to have a purpose other than just the appreciative awareness and love for what is taking place.

Not meaning to state the obvious – perhaps I have been a slow learner – but for me this needs constant learning and reminding. I suspect this is cultural. We are conditioned beings and in the West we have been conditioned to obsess about efficiency in our lives – contemporary western culture demands the efficient. It demands time savings, cost savings, faster, bigger, stronger. However this attitude really is an alienation of life.

Erich Fromm, another favourite author of mine, talks a lot about people living alienated lives. Essentially that people see the results of their actions as more important than the process of the activity.  In doing so people have become alienated from the main bulk of their lives, the part which involves the actual activities. Modern efficiency really does seem to be the death of life and also the death of much aesthetic in life. Consider this common scenario; if I am travelling somewhere and have a Sat Nav, I can find the fastest route – efficient, best then? But best for who? There is a slower, more costly but more scenic route. Since my care is not just to arrive at the destination, I’ll choose to take the less efficient route. I can enjoy the travelling, focus on it, care for it, love it rather than just try to be done with it as quickly as possible. To care only about arriving would relegate the whole journey to a chore, I would become alienated from the journey itself. So screw efficiency. I’ll drive slower and enjoy the journey.

The practice of art in everyday life involves making choices and taking actions that give care to the experience, taking the scenic route, feeling things, smelling the roses, essentially  being alive. The daily mundane present an opportunity of working with the material of life as an artist rather than as a chore. Cleaning the kitchen, folding clothes and interacting with people can all be undertaken in an artist manner.  I give care and full attention to what I am doing and put effort into producing some experience that is 1) conscious and 2) hopefully pleasant.  Rather than deriving satisfaction just from the result, which is but a tiny fleeting part of life, I can focus on the beauty and pleasure in the tasks themselves. This is the alchemy – ordinary life becomes gold.

Alchemy then and the ‘Art in everyday Life’ is about having the courage and fearlessness to do what I feel is right, just because it is pleasing, without a clear goal or need for a result, but just for the experience it brings. So now, I fold my clothes with care and attention, I sit upright, I smell the flowers, I look at the landscape and I do all manner of ‘inefficient’ things and doing so makes me happier and it makes me more alive.

Short quote from Jung on alchemical studies

A lovely quote from Carl Jung describing one of his patient’s awakening and his subsequent acceptance:
Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality – taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be – by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before.
I always thought that when we accepted things they overpowered us in some way or other. This turns out not to be true at all, and it is only by accepting them that one can assume and attitude towards them.
So now I intend to play the game of life, being receptive to whatever comes to me, good and bad, sun and shadow forever alternating, and, in this way, also accepting my own nature with its positive and negative sides. Thus everything becomes more alive to me.
What a fool I was! How I tried to force everything to go according to way I thought it ought to.”
an ex patient of C. G. Jung (Alchemical Studies, pg 47)

Conscious parenting: When the going gets tough

Anyone that has kids knows that parenting can be really challenging. However, like most suffering in life, it’s workable and can be transformed with the right mind set of conscious parenting. I find that parenting still pushes my psychological limits but I do have a workable strategy that I want to share. The key is to change my attitude to the situation.

Conscious parenting - AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Even simple things like a child’s bedtime can be a challenge as a parent. Take my youngest of 6 years as an example.  His routine involves, cleaning his teeth, changing for bed, an upside down ride which is me carrying him upside by his legs to kiss his sister good night, a story in bed and then some kisses and cuddles. Simple enough on paper. However, the critical challenge around bedtime is that everyone is tired, for my part, a single parent, I have been busy with them for 12 hours and would really like the quiet time of the evening to arrive, to arrive as soon as possible. It is that mindset that causes the problems.

There was a time when I would try to rush this routine so I could get to the ‘me time’ quicker. This led to me feeling tense, objections from my boy and to a general feeling of suffering in myself, the feeling that “I just did not want to be doing it”. There is a better way though. A more conscious approach to parenting uses acceptance, concentration and mindfulness of the now to bring peace into these moments. How does it work?

Firstly, I surrender to the moment and give away the desire for anything other than what is taking place. I drop that desire to get to the ‘me time’ and instead put all of my awareness into the tasks at hand. In essence, I align myself with events rather than aligning myself in opposition to them.

Conscious parenting - AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Mindfulness then becomes important once I have made that mental commitment to let go of my desires in this moment and to concentrate. Mindfulness at this point involves not judging what takes place but instead witnessing it more fully. This allows me to look at my boy more fully, suddenly I might see his face, his eyes, his smile, I sometimes see his tiredness, his fatigue and grumpiness, this allows me to feel compassion to his state of being and to feel love. While engaged in the task, I try to engage with them fully, for example I might read his story with gusto rather than as a chore, I might really look at the pictures in the book too, I just try to concentrate on the task and not to let my mind wish it were elsewhere. This approach is very nourishing for me and also for him.

A great inspiration in this attitude for me comes from the “Three questions” short story by Leo Tolstoy (spoilers of this story incoming) and I often find the answer to these three questions come to my mind when I find myself in an objectionable moment. The story involves a King seeking answers to three questions, namely 1) What is the most important moment? Now, it’s the only moment we can influence, 2) What is the most important thing in life? The thing you are doing, in the case of a child’s bedtime it is the child himself and 3) What is most important to do? To care, to care for the moment and the person, to love. So that’s my approach to parenting when it gets tough. It’s really liberating to feel a stressful moment collapse into something more peaceful. It’s like suddenly finding myself in the eye of a hurricane.

Its not something I always remember to practice, I am no saint nor Buddha, but when I do remember it brings about a transformation of the situation. Suddenly the situation becomes more alive, more pleasant, more peaceful. I hope others find this approach useful. It’s really nothing particularly special. It just an application of acceptance and mindfulness practice into everyday life, someone of my personal art of living well.

Short: ‘Do something today to challenge your ego’

How about a gentle exercise of conscious awareness? Rather than strengthening the ego, why not try to knock it down a little.  How? Just consider this for a moment:

Expose something you find awkward,
Discard something clung to,
Admit something you fear to admit,
Throw a caution to the wind,
Jump without looking,
Trust the ground of your being,
Be free.

If you find this notion scary, then hold that feeling because that’s your ego.  The something that you hold dear, the part of you that you could not bear to expose – even to yourself – that tiny piece of the intolerable.

Can you imagine what would happen if you let it go?  Just one small thing, perhaps just admitting something to yourself.  Try, everything will be okay.  In fact, you might find you feel a lot lighter without the burden.

Peace.

Mindfulness and overthinking abstraction

Abstraction is a fundamental part of human thought and conscious, something we use throughout our work, our studies and our daily life. Most people exist in a world of abstraction, so what is it? and why do we do it?

Abstraction is a fundamental part of human thought and consciousness, something we use throughout our work, our studies and our daily life.  Most people exist in a world of abstraction, so what is it? and why do we do it?

Essentially abstraction is a reductionist approach as it looks to take away aspects of the object of consideration, specifically to take away their uniqueness. Unique things are concrete and specific. Abstractions are general and non-unique.  This is a central part of Buddhism and modern mindfulness practices.

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Abstraction seeks commonalities between things so that things can be operated upon within our minds. As mind entities abstractions do not have a physical manifestation. In contrast concrete things have a physical manifestation. For example, the concept of a brick is abstract, whereas the realisation of an actual brick is unique and concrete.

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Concepts are real in the mind, but not real in the physical world. Many spiritual practices such as meditation and mindfulness attempt to pull consciousness back from the abstract concepts, which they often claim is not alive since it only exists in the mind. Instead such practices try to bring conscious back to the uniqueness of the concrete things. If abstractions are reductionist then an opposite approach, mindfulness,  is expansive as it encompasses all of the thing in its entirety. Mindfulness encourages anti-abstraction, so that when we meet an object in the world, we do not see the abstraction but rather see the thing in its fullness. In doing so we move from a mode of thinking and unreality and back into a mode of open full perception and reality.

A real brick has a uniqueness that if I try to describe now I will unavoidably reduce. The only true way to know a concrete thing is to experience it, it’s unique texture arrangement, colour, flaws etc. however my ‘words’ already reduce the experience and are an abstraction.

Indeed, part of the problem with excessive abstraction stems from the need for communication. If every experience is unique, ‘how to we communicate this to each other?’  We have to abstract to speak and speaking and writing is always an abstraction of some level. Another part of over abstraction is that we perceive far too much for our brains to process everything individually.  Abstraction allows us to deal with things that we encounter in the world without having to really see them or think about them. We can pick up a pen and write without really thinking, in doing so we don’t need to focus on the pen or the paper but rather the words. This can be extended to the desk, the chair, the light, etc. Abstraction allows us to ignore the non-essential, it thus save us time and thought. It is perhaps for these reasons that human society has evolved massive repositories of abstractions, from language, semantics to domain concepts.

This is problematic though, as the abstract mode of existence becomes the only mode of existing for many people and as such they see a reduced world. When we go to the park, we see the abstract forms, labelled, compartmentalised and therefore reduced. When we stop and really look at the uniqueness of things, which takes more time, we see the world more fully, more clearly, more alive. Our world and our existence becomes alive. This however takes time, it also takes a conscious effort. The practice of mindfulness is about making this reconnection with real things and therefore a reconnection with reality

over abstraction and how to be mindful - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Easy satisfaction, don’t be the man with a ‘never satisfied’ attitude

 “I am easily satisfied”

What a beautiful statement for a human being, such a person must be very happy.

This week I witnessed someone seemingly unhappy at work; a man with a “never satisfied attitude”.  The background to this encounter was that he was a reviewer at a meeting, a senior figure from a major educational institution, he was highly opinionated, judgmental and above all rarely satisfied.  Witnessing him in action was enlightening for me, he frowned, he criticised, he reveled in being the bad guy and to an outside observer he seemed quite wretched. Although, I think he was actually enjoying himself in some sadistic manner, furthermore I believe he felt virtuous in executing his duty as judge.

So my question from this was:

‘why does western society, specifically the business environment, value people that are never satisfied?’

Why is it wrong to feel satisfied?  Look at what it means to be satisfied, it means being content, fulfilled, appeased.  All of these are lovely states of mind in which to dwell.  Conversely, unsatisfied is to be unfulfilled, unhappy, discontent.  Surely not a pleasant state.

Why then does society value people that are not fulfilled, people that are not satisfied.  I am sure we have all heard a person praised for having the ‘never satisfied’ mentality, those driven people, business leaders, winners, perfectionists who by definition must be unhappy. This world seems so backward in its thinking, a world where being satisfied, content and happy is not required but instead people who are unsatisfied, driven and basically unhappy are praised as having strong character.

Be content instead

Give me happiness and contentment anytime. Give me a world where someone comes into a working environment and says, ‘that’s lovely, everything is fine’.  Let’s face it though, you are not going to get far in business if you go around telling people how easily satisfied you are.  See how fast you can fail a job interview with a statement like “yes, I am easily content at work, I am satisfied quite easily”.

Why does business value people who are never satisfied? - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

 

Doesn’t that seem odd though?  Almost wrong?  Why is contentment just not valued? furthermore, almost seen as bad.  Our society is so geared towards criticism and dissatisfaction, it’s no wonder mental health problems are rising. Regardless, I choose to be easily satisfied in my life, I choose to be happy and content.

Easy satisfaction, don’t be the man with a ‘never satisfied’ attitude

 “I am easily satisfied”

What a beautiful statement for a human being, such a person must be very happy.

This week I witnessed someone seemingly unhappy at work; a man with a “never satisfied attitude”.  The background to this encounter was that he was a reviewer at a meeting, a senior figure from a major educational institution, he was highly opinionated, judgmental and above all rarely satisfied.  Witnessing him in action was enlightening for me, he frowned, he criticised, he reveled in being the bad guy and to an outside observer he seemed quite wretched. Although, I think he was actually enjoying himself in some sadistic manner, furthermore I believe he felt virtuous in executing his duty as judge.

So my question from this was:

‘why does western society, specifically the business environment, value people that are never satisfied?’

Why is it wrong to feel satisfied?  Look at what it means to be satisfied, it means being content, fulfilled, appeased.  All of these are lovely states of mind in which to dwell.  Conversely, unsatisfied is to be unfulfilled, unhappy, discontent.  Surely not a pleasant state.

Why then does society value people that are not fulfilled, people that are not satisfied.  I am sure we have all heard a person praised for having the ‘never satisfied’ mentality, those driven people, business leaders, winners, perfectionists who by definition must be unhappy. This world seems so backward in its thinking, a world where being satisfied, content and happy is not required but instead people who are unsatisfied, driven and basically unhappy are praised as having strong character.

Be content instead

Give me happiness and contentment anytime. Give me a world where someone comes into a working environment and says, ‘that’s lovely, everything is fine’.  Let’s face it though, you are not going to get far in business if you go around telling people how easily satisfied you are.  See how fast you can fail a job interview with a statement like “yes, I am easily content at work, I am satisfied quite easily”.

Why does business value people who are never satisfied? - from AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

 

Doesn’t that seem odd though?  Almost wrong?  Why is contentment just not valued? furthermore, almost seen as bad.  Our society is so geared towards criticism and dissatisfaction, it’s no wonder mental health problems are rising. Regardless, I choose to be easily satisfied in my life, I choose to be happy and content.

5 tips for beginners meditation

The aim of these tips is to share some of my practical experience to perhaps help other beginners towards some very sublime meditations.

Before you read this, let me first say that I am a novice / beginner meditator.  I have been meditating for around 2-3 years, with some sizable breaks when life just got too busy.

My practice is 99% breath meditation, known as anapanasati  (inhalation and exhalation awareness).  Its a really simple practice – you just watch your breath very closely while counting the breaths.

1. You don’t have to sit on the floor

The meditation practices I first learnt involved sitting on the floor, crossed legged or some variant.   I have spent hours in this position and it’s taken many, many hours, far too many hours actually, to recognise that it’s not always the most conducive position for my meditation.

An issue I have is that crossed legged is often too painful for my body, notably my back and neck.  I find myself feeling that pain instead of concentrating on my breathing.  So… recently I noticed that some of the most ‘easy’ meditations (and I think easy is a good goal to have) came while sat on a chair, a park bench or something similar.   The key is to take away that struggle against any pain so as to enable a much more peaceful practice.

So reluctantly, I shook off my ego and that dogged determination to ‘not be a chair sitter’, and in doing so, I found some lovely meditation moments.

5 tips for meditation - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Tip: Make sure the chair is fairly upright to avoid a slouch and associated lack of wakefulness.

2. Count with meaning

One really helpful technique in meditation is to count breaths, typically counting to 10 then starting over.  The technique goes like this,  “one“, an in breath, “one” an out breath, “two” an in breath, “two” an out breath, etc.  The idea is that having that focus stops your thoughts from wandering, and it does, somewhat, until it becomes mechanical.

So, what I find really helps is to focus on the task more keenly.  Try to pick out that absolute spot where the breath begins and ends, trying to nail it and count precisely that moment. Watching the ‘in’ breath begin, then attentively watching the breath closely for the exact moment that the ‘in’ breath stops.  Finding that spot precisely and with that precise moment then counting the breath, “one” and start to exhale.  Then again, back to attention, watching, waiting, sharp attention, to find that exact spot, then counting “two”.   So trying to really stay with the breath attentively watching.

For me, the act of really concentrating channels my attention and keeps that very clear focus on the breath.  It’s given me some very calm and sharply focused meditations.  It’s a wonderful moment to feel a very deep concentration on the breath that arises from concentration.

3. Sometimes it won’t work as you want

It won’t, its ju5 tips for meditation - from the AnAccidentalAnarchist.comst won’t, you will think too much, you will get distracted, you will expect too much and it will just not happen.  That’s fine.  Meditation can be like that.  I like to think of the practice in these moments as really working on the technique.  Working on the breathing and the counting in the midst of thoughts and distractions, so its the basics of trying to keep focus that’s the technique.  A teacher once told me, ‘the mind is like a naughty puppy that needs to keep being brought back to sit down’.  Meditation can be like that, just accept it and keep bringing the puppy back to sit.  Every so often the puppy stays still.

4. You don’t need a perfect environment

I used to really struggle to find the right environment, too noisy, too windy, too cold, too warm, too smelly, too sunny, too cloudy, and so on. Time to wheel out the cliche, Just Do It!  I did, and I liked it. So try meditating in some public places, place which by definition are out of your control, it can be really quite pleasant. Yup, its noisy at times, its a bit wild, but really those issues are no worse to deal with than the wildness and noise of thoughts in the mind. So long as some basic conditions are met, such as bathroom needs, warm enough, then its workable. Obviously I am not advocating finding noisy places to spite yourself, but it does not need to be perfect to work out well. You will be surprised and what can happen if you sit down with low expectations and meditate.

5. Have very few expectations

Which brings me to the last tip and the simplest. Don’t expect much. In fact, really don’t expect meditation to go well or do anything.  It does not owe you anything just because you think it should or might. I would say more, but honestly, overthinking expectations is part of the problem.  Just sit, meditate, don’t expect anything, count, breath and accept whatever happens.  If you have this open attitude – then what ever happens is fine – and paradoxically its impossible for it not to be good, but don’t expect it!