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Subject: Mindfulness 101 rss

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I'm a Mormon but I've been learning a lot from the Buddhists lately. Here's something I wrote up for a friend, as my way of trying to understand what I've been reading about mindfulness (a trendy idea nowadays) and Buddhism.

These ideas have been super helpful to me, so I post them to anyone else who may be interested. Of course feel free to comment and/or correct me - I'm always trying to learn.



Mindfulness 101

Doing Mode

Our mind has more than one "mode." The mode we in the Western world tend to favor is what you could call Doing mode. This is planning and problem solving mode. If you are like me, you tend to spend a lot of time analyzing, categorizing, and trying to figure everything out.

Also, for me, worrying and ruminating. My mind is always in the future or the past, worrying what might happen and thinking how to plan for it. Regretting and cringing at things I've done in the past and beating myself up for it.

Doing mode is Thinking mode. It's not a bad thing. But it is bad to be in it all the time, or to not know how to break out of it. It's exhausting. If you are a worrier or a ruminator like me, it can also lead to anxiety and depression.

Your brain in Doing mode is bad at dealing with some problems, such as trying to “solve” emotions like sadness, fear, etc. It's ill-suited to this type of thing, but it often volunteers to help anyway.

If you're feeling restless or dissatisfied, if your mind is racing, if you are stressed out or frazzled, if you are full of obsessions or resentments or regrets or fears, then you are stuck in Doing mode.

Buddhists call this "monkey mind." It's not a good thing.

The problem with Doing mode is that we live in the present. Only. Obviously, the past is gone and the future isn't here yet. They don't exist. The present is the only reality we have. It's the only time in which we experience life and when we can make decisions and act.

If you are always in the future or past, you can easily miss out on life. Some people report missing their own weddings or the births of their children. They weren't mentally there.

Also, with monkey mind you are always in your head. You don't perceive important things about reality. You are more likely to think and make decisions according to your own prejudices rather than according to reality.


Being Mode

An alternate mode we may not be aware of is Being Mode. In this mode you are fully in the present moment. This is pre-thinking mode. It is pre-judging, pre-categorizing. It is bare awareness. You receive what is happening around you with your senses, but that's it. You are merely present. You just are. You fully notice your world happening in the present. This is a very foreign mode to a person like me.

Being Mode is what the Buddhists call mindfulness. It is a simple concept but a very powerful one. Buddhist meditation is simply learning to be in Being mode. You just keep your mind in the present. It's very calming. If you get good at it, it can also work profound transformations, helping you to see reality more clearly, to achieve complete mental health, and to feel loving kindness to yourself and everyone. Big claims, I know.

The goal is not to stay in Being mode all the time. Sometimes it is necessary to plan, analyze, etc. The goal is also not to stop thinking. You mind creates thoughts continually and you won't stop that.

The goal in Being mode is to watch your thoughts arise and then let them go without attaching meaning or significance to them.

In meditation you often focus on one thing to keep your mind in the present moment. Often you just sit quietly and focus on your breathing as an anchor to the present, just watching your breath go in and out on its own. But sooner or later, your mind will begin to wander. You just note that it has wandered, and calmly bring it back to your breathing.


There are many benefits of mindfulness. First of all, it gives your mind a rest from thinking, stressing, planning, etc.

Also, sometimes the solution to a problem is not to analyze it more, but just let it go. "Let it be." "Let go and let God." "Take no thought for the morrow." Stressing and analyzing will only make some things worse, only getting you more upset and stressed.

It helps you go to sleep. You just focus on your breathing and let all your thoughts and discomforts go.

It helps your creativity. When you give your mind a break from Doing/Thinking mode, your subconscious starts to throw up real ideas and solutions to problems.

Obviously, it helps with any activity - sports, etc. You are focused on what you are doing and not distracted by other concerns.

It's great for living the gospel. You learn to focus on the present moment, which helps you really listen to what people are telling you. You learn to just let things go as you forgive people. Your mind is still, so you can feel the Spirit better. You can accept yourself and others, because you just let go off negative thoughts about them. You don't get angry, offended, afraid, etc. because you have learned to observe things without attaching judgments to them.

You can love people better, because you are disciplined enough to really “be” with them in the present and focus on their real needs instead of your assumptions or your own self-centered reactions to them.


As an example, suppose a driver tailgates you right up to your bumper. Then they race past you and cut you off, honking as they pass, flipping you obscene gestures, swearing out their window, and racing ahead. A minute later you see them stopped at the traffic light right in front of you.

Doing mode will likely latch on to this, begin analyzing and categorizing the situation, leading to getting angry and offended, judging the person to be a jerk, and a fool since he didn't get any farther ahead in the end.

Being mode, on the other hand: You note the driver's behavior and just go back to your driving. You don't succumb to the temptation to mentally attach to the situation or form judgments about it. You just let it be what it is. You pay attention to the reality without interpreting it. You stay calm and focused.


Dukkha

If you have ever learned about Buddhism, you've probably heard that Buddhists believe "life is suffering, and suffering is caused by desire."

This is not entirely correct. Buddhists believe the default state of living is dukkha, which isn't exactly suffering; it's an inherent feeling of dissatisfaction with life. We respond to this dissatisfaction by trying to control things that are uncontrollable. We grasp after pleasure and avoid pain. We get angry or jealous or depressed. We distract ourselves with TV, career, etc.


(The following is from my notes about the book Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana, so it may not sound like my own wording)

Buddhists say we fight the natural order of things, which is a constant cycle of change:

Good times: we grasp on to them, try to keep hold of them, fearing the inevitable time when they will end.

Bad times - we avoid these, reject them, respond with aversion, deny and flee the pain.

Neutral times - we ignore these, which compose 90% of what happens. So we miss most of life and life tastes flat, feels boring.


The Treadmill

We are on a perpetual treadmill of seeking pleasure, fleeing pain, and ignoring anything else that is neutral. We are trapped in the prison of our own likes and dislikes. This is dukkha, the suffering caused by feeling the dissatisfaction of the treadmill.

We have built a whole culture around trying to suppress this feeling of dissatisfaction - by distracting ourselves with goals, projects, with concerns about status, by escaping into entertainment or alcohol.


The way out is mindfulness, a mentality underneath the treadmill. It’s a level of experiencing life that is beyond good and bad, beyond pleasure and pain. The mind does not try to freeze time, does not grasp onto experience as if flows by, does not try to block out things or ignore them.

The better way:
- learn to control your mind, to step outside the endless cycle of desire and aversion
- become free from the drive of your desires
- it's OK to want, but don’t chase after it
- it's OK to fear, but don’t be overwhelmed by it

To change, you must first see yourself exactly as you are now - then changes will flow naturally. Mindfulness helps you pay attention to this reality, so you accept reality.


For more about all this see the book I recommended to you (except it doesn't discuss Buddhism per se at all):

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World,
by Mark Williams
http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Eight-Week-Finding-Peace-F...
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Paul DeStefano
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Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.
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Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.


Blessed be

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Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.
He could... but that'd be devil-worship. Or something.
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Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.


Perhaps. But why would you look for knowledge in a religion that is at best 150 years old and appears to have simply rewritten and simplified the knowledge from religions like Buddhism, which is easily 1,000 years or more older?

I have no issues with any of the Modern style schools of thought, be it Wicca, Scientology, Mormonism or whatever - to each their own. On the other hand, The issue for me with Modern religions, or wet-behind-the-ears insight, is that I've always found the source of whatever the new guys are saying by looking at what the older guys said. It actually kind of creeps me out, along comes an L. Ron Hubbard (or whoever, name your leader) and he or she makes a pile of the good stuff from the original spiritualists, modernizes it and hawks it as the "way"... as if there are new insights into spirituality that the ancients just missed.

I'm very tolerant of almost all religions (except the ones that claim I must either convert or die) and it makes total sense why something like Scientology or (sorry for the comparison, but new is new) Wicca appeals to people. it's a fresh look at things in updated language. What confuses me is why anyone would just stop looking, stop exploring after being initiated into the newer churches. Didn't they open the minds of their constituents? Because it seems to me that once you get a taste of that nectar you'd be silly to not keep exploring and learning from the original sources.

I may be missing something, but having read quite a bit about the world's religions, both new and old, it sure seems like the new guys are little more than a launch pad for getting into the old guy's wisdom.

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DWTripp wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.


Perhaps. But why would you look for knowledge in a religion that is at best 150 years old and appears to have simply rewritten and simplified the knowledge from religions like Buddhism, which is easily 1,000 years or more older?

I have no issues with any of the Modern style schools of thought, be it Wicca, Scientology, Mormonism or whatever - to each their own. On the other hand, The issue for me with Modern religions, or wet-behind-the-ears insight, is that I've always found the source of whatever the new guys are saying by looking at what the older guys said. It actually kind of creeps me out, along comes an L. Ron Hubbard (or whoever, name your leader) and he or she makes a pile of the good stuff from the original spiritualists, modernizes it and hawks it as the "way"... as if there are new insights into spirituality that the ancients just missed.

I'm very tolerant of almost all religions (except the ones that claim I must either convert or die) and it makes total sense why something like Scientology or (sorry for the comparison, but new is new) Wicca appeals to people. it's a fresh look at things in updated language. What confuses me is why anyone would just stop looking, stop exploring after being initiated into the newer churches. Didn't they open the minds of their constituents? Because it seems to me that once you get a taste of that nectar you'd be silly to not keep exploring and learning from the original sources.

I may be missing something, but having read quite a bit about the world's religions, both new and old, it sure seems like the new guys are little more than a launch pad for getting into the old guy's wisdom.

On the whole religions seem to have always piggybacked on the ones that went before. It's only the modern ones that seem (however) to claim it's anything new.
 
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Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.

Interesting. Tell me more. Wiccans talk about mindfulness and accepting reality?
 
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Buddhism pre-dates Christianity by about 500 years.

A Buddhist walks into a bar and says "Make me one with everything!"
A few minutes later he gets his pizza, and hands over a large denomination banknote. After waiting another 10 minutes, he asks the guy behind the counter "Where's my change?" to which the guy replies "Ah! but change comes from within!

j/k.
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Nice summary! If you are interested in learning more about Buddhism and some interesting speculation about the founder Siddartha Gautama, I highly recommend Stephan Bachelor's book "Confession of a Buddhist Athiest".

In response to another poster, Buddhism is about 2500 years old.
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DWTripp wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.


Perhaps. But why would you look for knowledge in a religion that is at best 150 years old ...


More like 80.
 
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DWTripp wrote:

I'm very tolerant of almost all religions (except the ones that claim I must either convert or die)


What do you think about these that claim that you must either convert or spent an eternity of damnation?
 
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DWTripp wrote:
it's a fresh look at things in updated language


That's a lot of it right there.

In truth, most of the younger religions, like Wicca, heartily encourage studying buddhism and shinto and such.

There are several modern wiccan and druidic sects that require a vast knowledge of buddhism as part of the initiation. Some also drift into Christianity or Native American works as well.

I don't think many of these 'new seekers' actually stop looking, unless they are simply looking for a social comfort group.
 
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tesuji wrote:
Geosphere wrote:
Or you could just pick up any book on basic wicca and find all this in the introduction.

Interesting. Tell me more. Wiccans talk about mindfulness and accepting reality?


Absolutely, although a few words are sometimes different. Except monkey mind - that term is universal. In every wiccan's Book Of Shadows, there will be an entry for Mindfulness, a somewhat basic tenet to the earth based religions. It has many layers of meaning and interpretation.

At base, there's a meditative process usually referred to as 'grounding', similar to electricity.

For beginners, it is literally feeling the ground. Simply being aware of the surface that supports you. You focus upon the singularity of each breath and the actual existence of the air.

Later on, you are told to imagine the connection of yourself to all things around you, starting with gravity itself. How already you are under the power of other things. We just rarely take note, until we are falling.

All wiccan sects stress meditation (one of my favorite phrases - to stress meditation). Often punctuated by a buddhist maxim: Meditate for 20 minutes a day unless you can't find the time. In that case, meditate for an hour.

During this meditation, the first step is 'grounding' - awareness. The awareness focuses then on the primal elements. Earth, air, fire, water. Gravity, breathing, feeling your own heat, swallowing. The fifth element is not Leeloo. It is mind. Be aware of your thought process. Or lack of it.

The elements also are used to symbolize the states you mention. Be like fire - be active. Be like water - be adaptive. Be like air - be passive. Be like earth - be resilient. Be like mind - know which to be.

As Tripp says, none of this is new. Its been passed from religion to religion, much like the golden rule. New books on mindfulness simply strip the spiritual aspect out to appeal to the atheist crowd.
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HavocIsHere wrote:
DWTripp wrote:

I'm very tolerant of almost all religions (except the ones that claim I must either convert or die)


What do you think about these that claim that you must either convert or spent an eternity of damnation?


Hmmm. I assume you are referring to Christianity. Exclusivism is hardly restricted to Christianity or the Muslim faith, The Jews are not "the chosen people" just because it sounds good. The idea is simple - if you don't suborn your will to our faith/God you will burn in damnation, or you will not ascend, or you will have to repeat the whole process again and again until you get it right.

If you have an issue with Christianity and "it's us or damnation" then you have an issue with Catholics and a minority of evangelical offshoots from the Protestant side of the equation. Islam is much more steely-eyed and unforgiving and Judaism is also cut-and-dried about being chosen. Although the Jewish people aren't threatening to kill anyone who fails to bow to their interpretation of God.

What matters to me is if religious followers act out on their beliefs... that is, willfully harm others who refuse to see things their way. Almost every religion on the planet, save one, has either long abandoned that process for recruiting new members, or they never used it to begin with.
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"What is mind?"
"Mind is no matter."

"What is matter?"
"Nevermind..."
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