Monday, May 28, 2012

Recognizing and Overcoming the Challenges of Mindfulness Practice

Every day, I have been reading a few pages of  The Wings of Awakening, Thanissaro Bikkhu's compiling and commentary of the Buddha's most important teachings, as declared by the Buddha himself. And I am struck by the clarity of the instructions at our disposal. From there to the question, how come not more practice from more people, only one small step that I would like to cross here. 

We know what to do. We know the reward. So, what's the problem?

Starting with myself, I need to reflect on all the moments when I am not mindful, all the missed opportunities to steady the mind and gain more wisdom, all the small forks in the road when I choose the mindless route. Why spend time surfing the Internet, when I could be practicing? Why get impatient while waiting for something, somewhere, when I could use the time as a mindful pause? Why go shopping for more clothes that I don't really need, when I could choose to sit instead and learn from the underline anxiety? Why all those moments, spent acting against my own self-interest?

I sat down this morning and reflected on all the reasons why I have not been more mindful, and why potentially others are not either. And came down with this list:

Let me start first by blaming the environment :). Silicon Valley, out of all places is not exactly conducive to the practice of mindfulness. In the world of Facebook and Google, it is easy to loose sight of the real thing. 

Second is laziness. It takes great mental energy to stay mindful. This is why right effort is part of the teachings. To not give into the temptation to escape a difficult moment, whether because of physical or mental pain, requires willpower. 

Third is the compulsion of mindless computing. The web has brought me so many wonderful gifts, including ready access to the teachings and to many Dharma friends. It has also hooked my mind into unhealthy habits that are hard to give up. 

Fourth is delusion, or the mind's tendency to fool itself into thinking erroneous thoughts. Leading me to drown into hindrances, for a bit too long before I can see them for what they really are. 

This is why I need the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha to keep me on task, 24/7. The Buddha, whose gentle wisdom welcomes me each time I open my computer:

The Dharma, to be found at Access to Insight, the awesome repository of teachings, accessible through just one click. The Sangha in its many forms: online here and also on Twitter and Facebook, but more importantly, in the flesh at Insight Meditation Center, my local center. Making the time each week to reconnect, and remember to practice as I join my friends there for a sitting, followed by a talk from our teacher, Gil Fronsdal.

Which are your greatest challenges to mindfulness practice? 

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