Are we our possessions?
Possibly our materialist society with little attachment to nature, personal relationships, or community, has enhanced our dissatisfaction with life. We tend to measure our success by having the latest of everything and do not judge success by our quality of mind or deep connections to others, or the good deeds we do.
Our material possession often gives fleeting joy as we seek bigger and better than what we already have. How many updates have you made to your television, furniture, car? Were they at a point where they needed replacement because they were old and broken or were you just updating to be part of the fashionable set?
Work and Play Hard 24/7
We work hard, party hard and have great toys. Many employees take work home now or stay late at work to meet expectations. Working so hard sometimes means these people then have the same attitude to leisure time. They work out at top speed at the gym, they drink and eat to excess at a restaurant. Their relationships are transitory as they superficially connect to others. They strive for a high quality of appearance of themselves and their homes. They have no time!
Coupled with this, is we are connected twenty-four seven. Our electronic devices can mean we are never off the grid. Workers can be contacted at home on their mobile and social media has created many of us wanting to be updated all the time. We seem to be living life in a faster lane now, and it appears to be getting faster. No down time leads to stress!
Even our garden is not a restful place as we are more likely to be working in it than just enjoying and soaking up being present with nature. We are building pergolas, putting in pools, landscaping the garden, mowing the lawn that is rarely used as we rush around creating a better (but not happier) life.
In early 2020 we were forced to stop, and being confined for long periods to one’s house during lockdowns, allowed for us to pause and self-reflect on what is important to us, what do we value, who do we want to be, what do we want to do with our life? Thus, a positive outcome from the terrible Coronavirus was that individuals started to search for a more meaning existence possible for the first time. This gave time to be introspective and re-evaluate one’s life. It’s been a time to stop and smell the roses!
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are pathways to this self-investigation that is richer far beyond material possessions. Using mindfulness and meditation can help you to seek your true purpose for life, create fulfilling relationships, engage meaningfully in your community, and find the joy in giving instead of getting! Maybe it’s time to take stock and think about what is important for you – where do you go from here? Try the following exercise to help your mind to gain clarity of thought. The exercise will help you to still the mind and gain clarity and get in touch with your wisdom and insight. Turn off the television, put down your mobile phone and take time to examine your mind:
Exercise: Peace and Clarity
1. Lie down and close your eyes 2. Imagine you are in a peaceful place – floating peacefully in a crystal-clear lake. 3. Observe the still water; there is no breeze to disturb the stillness. 4. Look into the clear water; you can see right to the bottom of the pool. 5. Sit with that image for a moment. 6. Now, imagine you are floating in a stormy sea 7. Imagine this water is full of rubbish; you can’t see what’s below the surface. 8. Picture a gale of wind howling, the water become turbulent. 9. See yourself being pushed in a direction that you didn’t choose. 10. Open your eyes. 11. Reflect on which water you want your mind to dwell - the calm, clear, peaceful water where you can see through to the bottom or the murky, rough seas?
Clarity of thought
A clear mind, like the clear waters, will allow you to see deep into the water/mind. From such a place you have clarity of thought as your mind is still and not being thrown this way at that in the stormy activity of the mind. The clear pond/mind doesn’t have a murky appearance where you can’t see what’s coming and so you don’t have a cluttered array of thoughts. In the clear pond that is now your mind you can gain focus, concentration, clarity, insight, and wisdom. The mind in this state can help you to re-evaluate your life and its purpose.
Living in the Present
Most of us spend much of our time daydreaming with thoughts often coming in haphazardly. We get caught up in the judgements, points of view, feelings and forget how to experience the here and now. Mostly, we are in the storm just described and are not seeing the present moment. We therefore rarely experience the reality of life. The saying, ‘The lights are on, but no one is home’, is a very apt description for how many people live much of their busy lives. The idea of meditation then, is to discipline the mind not to meander but to maintain our attentiveness on one thing. The mind will try to run off at any moment; we must watch it, be aware of what is happening, and bring the mind back to the clear pond and away from the turbulent thinking of a mind in the storm blowing this way and that.
The Anchor is Your Breathe
We can understand this undisciplined mind if we relate it to a boat on the ocean. If we have lost sight of land and are unable to anchor, we cannot see if our boat is drifting this way or that. However, if suddenly we catch sight of land, we can then get our bearings and realise that we are coasting one way or the other and do something about it. In the following meditation exercise, we are going to use the breath like the land, an anchor to notice if we are moving one way or the other. Concentrating on the breath will ensure that we notice the moment that ideas, thoughts, and judgements start creeping in; be able to notice this and return to the breath, focus, even if only for a second or two.
Developing this disciplined mind will help you to live your life more purposefully, with more meaning and being able to set clear goals and act more consciously to emerge as the best version of you that you can be. Isn’t this worth setting aside 15 minutes per day meditate to instead of mindlessly scrolling on the mobile phone?
© Extract from Robinanne Lavelle’s ‘Life Sorted in 8 Sessions’ due to be released March 12, 2022.