Let’s say you are a healthy adult who has all your basic needs met and people who care about your well-being. You also have the freedom to do what you like.
Even in the most fortunate of circumstances, many of us struggle with stress, anxiety and frustration.
How can we enjoy life, find peace and calm, and keep our eyes on the prize?
Mindfulness practices have been a key to my happiness. While they are not the best way to solve all your problems, they can help you feel less stressed.
Those who have been practicing meditation for a while will know what I mean. If you are interested, let’s take a look at some ways to get deeper into meditation.
Step 1: Get into the Direct Experience of the Moment
We are often absorbed in our thoughts about ourselves, others, and the world around. Our minds are stuck in a narrative or story about the situation, and we’re trapped there. All of our problems are caused by this — frustration, sadness, stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
This is the practice of allowing yourself to feel the moment. The thoughts about the moment will not come up, but the actual sensations that are occurring in the moment.
You may notice sensations in different parts of the body. This could include how your breath feels and how your torso feels. Also, notice what you can feel in your neck, head, arms, and legs. The sensation of air under your feet or on your skin might be something you notice. You may hear sounds, light, colors, or shapes.
If you find yourself getting caught up in thoughts, ideas, or fantasies, let go and get back to the present moment. As if you were experiencing it for the first time, experience everything with a beginner’s mind.
This is a skill you can improve on, and return to direct experience over and over again. This is where you move away from stories and concepts, and instead focus on direct experience. Be curious, observe, and just observe.
Try this if you feel stressed or frustrated. Try this: Reduce your focus and be more present.
This can be done for at most a month, but it can be continued for a lifetime.
Step 2: Show a sense of friendliness towards the experience
You might consider a different way to relate to the direct experience after you have practiced dropping in.
Instead of being an impartial observer, try to bring warmth, friendliness and gentleness to the direct experience.
You might notice someone walking down the street and feel friendly towards them. You should welcome them to your home as you would welcome a friend into your home.
You can also bring warmth, friendliness, and a sense of welcoming to any situation you observe in your own experience. These sensations might be a sign that you are friendly to them. It is the same for everything you hear, see and smell. It’s the same for how you perceive nature around you and your own sensations.
It is a continuation of direct experience but with a shift of how you relate to it.
This can be done for at least one month.
Step 3: Lose your Sense of Self and Motivation from Gain & Loss
After you have completed the above steps, your view of reality will be more free from stories and conceptions, and more open to change.
Next, notice that there is no self when you are in direct experience. There is a brain and a body, but they are not independent from each other. It’s interconnected with everything, so it can’t be identified as something separate from the rest of the world. As you might say of a drop of water in an ocean, “This is a different drop of water!” It’s not separate in our minds. It’s part of the whole.
Although it may sound very philosophical, this is the reality of realizing whether you are motivated by a desire to gain or avoid loss. You might seek out praise and affection from someone (gain), or avoid getting mad at them (loss). You may be scrolling and posting on social media in search of validation (gain), or worrying about missing out (loss). You may buy something based on how it makes you feel (gain), or because you are worried about or insecure about a situation.
These actions are all motivated by feelings of loss and gain. It is normal. They all stem from a separate self. We are trying to gain something for ourselves, and trying to avoid losing our own self. Our greatest activity and goal is to help this separate self achieve what it wants, or avoid what it doesn’t want. It’s what makes us angry or frustrated when we don’t get what our hearts desire, or hurt or sad when it doesn’t, or anxious or stressed when something might happen.
Our struggles in life are caused by our motivation to gain or lose. This is due to the feeling of being separate from oneself.
Is there another way? The loss of a separate self. Being present in direct experience. Feeling friendliness, even love for everyone and everything around you. Then, I am motivated by that love. I act from a place where love and compassion are my main goals.
It’s worth it! It is an amazing practice. You can be in direct contact with your experience and let go of your self-imposed separation from the world. You will begin to see how connected you truly are to the world. You breathe in the air of the world, eat the food of the world, and drink water from it all. Your interconnectedness and interdependence is unbreakable. You can drop the concept of self like other concepts and return to direct experience.
Then, observe your actions and determine if you are motivated by a desire to gain or avoid loss. Try to find a way to love and be compassionate for all living things. It is a powerful place to move from.