The Biggest Obstacle To Mindful Living Part 2 (& How To Cultivate A Life Of Contentment)
Are you finding yourself getting caught up in a sense of struggle and dissatisfaction?
Imagine having a simple, tried, tested and proven tool to guide you into deeper serenity and ease. That’s what we’re exploring this week.
In this second short audio-episode of The Mindfulness Summit, we continue the exploration we started last week. The exploration of what is often referred to as the biggest obstacle to mindful living (getting caught up in craving) and I will show you how the parable of the stonemason reveals a deep wisdom that we can all apply to our lives right now.
Stay tuned because next week we’ll be delving deeper into this topic. I’ll be releasing a brand new video with Dr Judson Brewer. Jud is the Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and an internationally known expert in mindfulness training for addiction. He is an expert on how we can more skilfully handle craving and this interview is jam packed with wisdom.
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G’day, it’s Melli O’Brien here from The Mindfulness Summit. This is the second short audio-episode of The Mindfulness Summit. These episodes are a 5 – 15 minute exploration into some aspect of mindful living. So in these audio episodes I’ll share with you a poem, a quote or a story and then we unpack the wisdom within it and I’ll show you a way to integrate that wisdom into our everyday lives.
This week, I’m going to share with you a story. It’s an old Taoist parable about a stonemason….
Upon seeing this rich lord with all his luxuries and his comforts ans servants, the stonemason felt like his work suddenly felt so much harder. He become dissatisfied. “Oh, if only I were a rich man,” he wished, “surely then I’d be so happy!” Suddenly mysteriously, a voice answered from the mountain, “Your wish shall become reality. A rich man you shall be!”
And that day, when the stonemason returned home from work, he found a beautiful palace where his simple home had once stood. Well the poor man was overflowing with joy, and before too long his old life was all but completely forgotten. One day though, many months later, he was walking in the marketplace and started to feel a little discontented…and that day he felt the sun burning on the side of his face. A wish came to his mind. He wished he could be as mighty as the sun itself. Surely with that kind of power he’d feel whole and happy. Well only a moment after this wish entered his mind, he actually transformed, becoming the sun itself.
Well as the sun, he felt all powerful. His light shone around the entire world and his rays beamed on kings and cobblers alike. But before long, a cloud moved in front of him obscuring his light. He become dissatisfied, restless. “What is this?” he wondered. “A cloud is mightier than me? Oh, I wish I were a cloud.”
And a cloud he became. And as a cloud, he blocked the sun’s beams, and for weeks he poured rain until the rivers overflowed their banks and the crops of rice all stood in water. Towns and villages were destroyed by the sheer power of his rain. But then one day he noticed something, no matter how much rain he poured forth, no matter how much force he used one thing remained unmoved – the great rock on the mountainside below. “What is this?” he cried. “A rock is mightier than me? Oh, I wish I were a rock.”
And the rock he became. And as a rock he gloried in his power. Proudly he stood, and neither the heat of the sun nor the force of the rain could move him. “This is the best!” he said to himself. But just a moment later, he heard a strange noise at his feet, and when he looked down he saw a stonemason breaking him up, piece by piece. Then he cried in anger: “Oh, if only I were a stonemason!”
In the next instant, a stonemason he became once again. And as the stonemason, he remained content as he was for the rest of his life.
So this story offers us a powerful lesson, doesn’t it, on how we get caught up and potent reminder on how to live a rich, meaningful and fulfilling human life….a life of contentment and ease.
Because like this stone mason, we all have a similar challenge, don’t we? We have a strong tendency, us human beings, to get caught up in craving for more instead of just allowing life to be as it is. And when we’re caught in this kind of craving, we never quite feel like we are enough. We never quite feel like life is enough. There’s a sense that life is unfulfilled and that we are not complete. And when we feel like that we start struggling and striving for more and it’s kind of an endless cycle….and many people live their whole lives like that.
And when we get caught up this we way, we start dreaming, don’t we? “Oh, what I need is a better car or I need to be prettier or I need to get a partner. I need to be more spiritual or achieve something or get something or do something or have something.” We start breaking down our goals and analyzing and comparing ourselves to other people to see how we’re doing at the game of life. We whip ourselves into shape with self-criticism when we’re not there yet.
You know, but the liberation the stonemason experienced at the end of his adventure is also available to each one of us right here and now. After his adventure, he remained content for the rest of his life. Why? Well, because he gained the wisdom to give up craving as a state of mind. He let go of the belief, ‘I need something more.’ And perhaps you’ve had you’re own adventures, like the stonemason’s? Looking for wholeness and happiness in all kinds of external methods,through maybe work and other people or achievements and having stuff and doing stuff.
But what’s available to us right now is also another choice. A choice of instead of leaving ourselves and entering what the Buddhists call samsara (a word meaning endless wandering) we can slow down and touch in. Instead of striving for more, we can stop and open up to the fullness of life that’s right in front of us.
And one of the most powerful ways to do that is by cultivating gratitude.
Author Melody Beattie writes, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. And it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
So gratitude, you see, is a really a powerful antidote to craving. It’s a treasured companion on our journey into mindful living. You know there is a saying, “Happiness is not having what you want. It is appreciating what you have.”
So that’s the invitation for this week….to appreciate what we have and to do that in two ways.
The first way is to see if you can catch yourself in any moment of struggling, stressing, striving, any moments of dissatisfaction. Noticing the dissatisfaction, the discontent and just pausing for a moment. taking a breath and seeing if it’s possible to find something in that very moment that you really appreciate, that you’re really grateful for. Just taking a moment to take that in.
And there’s one other suggestion. Another way to cultivate a life of gratitude and contentment is just as you go to bed at night, making it a routine, to think of one thing that you’re really grateful for from the day. It could be the simplest thing. It could be just the gratitude for the warmth of the blankets, the companionship of an animal or a person, for safety, for the sun, for the play of light and shadow in the room, for the breath that you’re breathing. And allowing that to be the way you fall into sleep that night with a sense of gratitude and appreciation.
So that’s the task for this week and I would love to hear your stories and experiences. And sure, if you have any questions just shoot them over to me. You can touch in and share with us on Facebook, Twitter or email. I always really love hearing from you.
So I’ll tune in with you next week and I really look forward to that. We will be, actually next week, showing an interview with Dr. Judson Brewer from the Center for Mindfulness which delves even deeper into this topic of craving and how we can use mindfulness to cultivate a life of contentment and ease. So make sure you stay tuned for that.
And I’m just going to leave you with a thought inspired by Robert McPhillips.
“Happiness is the experience of loving life. Being happy is being in love with your momentary experience. And love is looking at someone or something deeply, seeing with fresh eyes and with total acceptance and openness. Love is happiness with what you see. So love and happiness really are the same thing…just expressed differently.”
Thanks for tuning in and see you next time.