According to Buddhism, mindfulness is a path to awakening. But just what is it that we’re awaking to, or awakening from?
While there are many ways to define and describe the term “awakening,” one might say that what we’re awakening from is the mental suffering that goes along with greed, delusion and hatred.
Awakening can also be described as an awakening into love, compassion, peace and wisdom.
Awakening as a Practice
The path of awakening is a practice, and as such we find ourselves beginning again and again and again - in each and every moment. Doubts and self-judgments are unavoidable and so to try and avoid these all too common pitfalls, we need to truly welcome the ups and downs that are simply grist for the mill.
We must also remember that often times, the greatest learning experiences come when we find ourselves falling off the path, so to speak. It’s also essential to know that you’ve not failed when you do wind up in one of these ruts of suffering.
Suffering is part of the natural ebb and flow of this mindful path to awakening and these times of suffering often provoke the most profound investigation.
If we approach these times with a true sense of openness and curiosity, we’re provided with rare opportunities to evolve along the path of awakening.
How Mindfulness Helps
Mindfulness teaches us that a keen interest into what’s really going on inside leads to understanding. It teaches us that curiosity opens us up to an inner spaciousness that allows for deep insights to occur.
During the times when things aren’t all roses and sunshine, we simply need to get curious, rather than constricted and averse. Mindfulness allows us to get really specific as to what the “negative” emotion is, and then it also teaches us to observe how we’re actually relating to the experience.
If we’re relating to icky feelings with aversion, we’re really not practicing mindfulness. We’re not allowing ourselves to be fully present and open with the difficulties. It’s this acceptance that frees us and allows the difficult emotions to pass through.
How do we know we’re evolving on the path to awakening?
- Our understanding of impermanence and change becomes more refined.
- We have greater equanimity.
- We become less and less judgmental.
- We are more open and accepting.
- We have a greater sense of peace in our lives.
- We have more compassion in our relationships.
- We’re more careful in the way we speak with and to others.
The beauty of mindfulness is that it’s not limited to our meditation cushion. We practice being mindful in absolutely everything we do in our lives. A wonderful place to practice mindfulness in our everyday lives is when we’re speaking.
In practicing mindful communication, we might ask ourselves, “are my words coming from a place of goodwill?”
Integrating Mindful Realizations Into Daily Life
On the path to awakening, we also have gimpses of deep and profound insights, and we want to integrate these insights into our daily lives. We may experience a sudden awakening, and that’s all fine and good, but it’s the gradual cultivation of those AHA moments into our lives that really matter.
When we experience these sudden realizations, it’s super challenging not to get attached to them and it’s totally natural to want to hold onto these peak experiences. But as with everything, they too are subject to the law of change.
The fact that these awakenings pass or change isn’t a bad thing, it’s the holding onto them that is. So, we let go and let go and let go – over and over again.
It’s all about non-clinging. This is the context in which the mindfulness practice needs to be understood. This is where true freedom of the mind comes in.
Here’s to walking the mindful path of awakening.