Here are (1) some articles on using mindfulness and patience to start where we are, to accept wholeheartedly our unhappy or negative thoughts with a view to transforming them; (2) some articles on improving our mindfulness, alertness, and concentration.
Mindfulness & patient acceptance
Extract: We take our thoughts to heart, believe them at face value, pay attention to them, give them more food, build entire storylines around them. We rewind, thinking, “I feel bad today and, come to think of it, I always feel a bit depressed.” We fast-forward, thinking, “I feel bad today and this is the only thing I’ll ever feel.”
Extract: But it is only by discriminating what is going on within our mind that we can plumb our real potential – focusing on externals is like being caught up in just the froth, the waves, the bubbles, neglecting this enormous wellspring of power and freedom within us, failing to recognize that it is our thoughts that make our world, not the other way around.
Extract: But could it simply be “I’m in a bad mood because I am in a bad mood”, and therefore need to let these thoughts go and practice love instead?
Extract: There are plenty of natural pauses in the day if we know how to use them – if instead of pathologically filling them up with texting, FOMO, etc, we go in confidently toward the heart instead.
Improving mindfulness, alertness, and concentration
Extract: I’ll ask you, if you don’t mind … out of 10, how many of your thoughts are in your control and how many are not? Or, put another way, how many of your thoughts do you actually want or choose to think and how many of your thoughts do you not want to think but can’t help thinking?
Extract: All we are asking our mind to do is focus on the in-breath and out-breath, how hard can that be?! But apparently we have an inane and endless talk show going on in our head. This is what we are dealing with when we close our eyes and try to focus on our breath — our uncontrolled mind has other ideas. A lot of other ideas. Some of them terrible ideas!
Extract: I think this is an important point: it doesn’t matter how often our mind wanders — even if that is a hundred times — provided that we notice and bring it back to the next breath, for this is still strengthening our mindfulness. In other words, however busy or distracted your mind feels, you are still meditating and improving.
Extract: We can check for ourselves — as soon as we have a gap or pause in the day, waiting for a meeting or traffic lights or the kettle to boil, or even strolling down the road, what do we do? Something on our to-do list? Stop to smell the roses? Not usually. Instead we get on our smart phone and start scrolling downwards or sideways, searching for happiness. “Well, that’s underwhelming. But maybe it’s on the next screen! Or the next? Or the next?”
Have any of us actually found happiness and freedom yet in our phone?!
Have any of us found joy, love, connection, or meaning?
Surely we need to pause in the pursuit of happiness to just BE happy!
Extract: And this is perhaps the crux of the problem of the mindless application of Buddhist meditation practice: the marketing of mindfulness as a solution to work stress and life balance rather than the complex spiritual approach to living it is meant to be.