Sustaining Mindfulness with Gratitude
Mindfulness isn’t an end in itself, it is more of a means to an end. It’s the bridge between life being lived habitually and through your programming, and a life filled with compassion and benevolence for yourself, for others and for the planet. It’s the physician of the soul that sees inner stillness and joy replacing anxiety, depression, exhaustion and loneliness.
As previously explained, mindfulness is touching each moment in life’s experience, remembering that you have a choice between experiencing life peacefully or painfully. A Course in Miracles® says that if peace is your priority, then forgiveness is your only function. It simply describes forgiveness as selective remembering, that means choosing to see what has happened with a different perspective. For example, since there are fundamentally only two motives for all human behaviour, either extending love or calling for help, then when someone is attacking you, it’s obvious they aren’t extending love, so they must be calling for help. Forgiveness is seeing the call for help.
This is one example of living life with benevolence and compassion. Recognising you have a choice in how you relate to the attack is practicing mindfulness. Applying forgiveness (without the exertion of will – should or must) results in you maintaining your inner peace. This results in an increased awareness of the benefit of living life mindfully. The choice you make excites the relative neural pathway, which adds to its fortification, as well as the pruning of the alternative pathway. The fortification and pruning of the neural pathways are compounded both by gratitude, in the case of forgiveness, and justification in the case of being reactive, depending on what you eventually choose.
Fortification of the ‘peaceful’ neural pathway sees an increased inclination to choose this alternative in the future. Once again, mindfulness is remembering that there is a choice whenever presented with situations like an ‘attack’, for example. Of course, awareness is having gained the knowledge and understanding of an alternative behaviour or consciousness to your ‘modus operandi’. To have all of the information necessary to be grateful, in your practice of mindfulness you will always include what the impact of either choice might be on you, others and the planet, and whether or not that impact is loving, truly serving.
Having witnessed the loving impact, or as the case may be the non-loving impact, is where gratitude is applied. In the forgiving response there might be gratitude for the way this has maintained your inner peace and stillness, which in turn maintains your wellbeing. You might have cause for gratitude because the way you responded might have been of benefit to the attacker, helping them to also be more peaceful. As is often the case, in your early attempts to be more mindful, you might resort to your old neural pathway and react to the attack. This might result in aggravation and angst, thus destroying your inner peace, resulting in you feeling stressed.
Even in this situation you can be grateful. Finding yourself in your old predicament you recognise that the absence of inner peace is not what you want. Having observed that, you are now much more clearer about what it is that you do want – inner peace. You can now practice gratitude for having that clarity of mind. Instead of wallowing in the shame of failure, this gives you the motive to be more resolved about your choice in the future. By being grateful for both the success and the failure means that you continue to build the more loving neural pathway.
One way to practically adopt a greater awareness of gratitude is to take time each day to identify and acknowledge those things for which you can be grateful. This is one of the benefits of having a daily prayer ritual, since gratitude is typically intrinsic to prayer. Of course journaling is another way you can identify the more loving thoughts and actions carried out in each day, the benefit of which you can express gratitude. Or you might take time to share your experiences with your friend/partner. Anytime you make the effort to be grateful you strengthen the ‘loving’ neural pathway, which in turn strengthens your resolve to be more compassionate and benevolent.
There comes a time (after many failures) where devotion to being benevolent is your default. In other words, your ‘loving’ neural pathway is well established, and the old pathway that caused you to suffer has all but disappeared. This means that you live life constantly aware/present to what is going on around you and clearly the see the opportunities to be of service to others and the planet, while being aware of what is loving to yourself. Living life in this way results in sustainable inner stillness and joy. In the final blog in this series, I will be discussing what a life of inner stillness and joy looks like.
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