The Biggest Obstacle To Mindful Living (and a Short Powerful Exercise That Will Help You Overcome It)
This is a short audio session of the Mindfulness Summit Journey. These 5-15 minute sessions are an exploration into some aspect of mindful living where I’ll share with you a poem, quote or story and then I’ll unpack the wisdom within it and give you an easy method to integrate that wisdom into your life.
In this episode we explore what is often referred to as the biggest obstacle to mindful living and I give you a way to begin to break free from this obstacle in your daily life.
This quote below, to me, speaks powerfully of the cost of getting caught up in this obstacle to mindful living. Please share this around (share links below the image) as a potent reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of living today fully.
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G’day, it’s Melli O’Brien here and I’m going to say it feels so great to be reconnecting with The Mindfulness Summit community again in this way and to feel a sense of continuing journey.
Today I want to talk to you about something that’s often spoken about as being the biggest obstacle to conscious living, to mindful living. And this is something that we’re actually going to explore in the next month in various ways through interviews with experts, through blogs and little mindful reminders and also through ways that you can begin to explore this at home, in your own life and in your own mind.
If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been on this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour and day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments.
It’s just that if I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living my life so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle and a raincoat.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
and I would pick more daisies.
This second poem is anonymous. I don’t know who it was written by.
First I was dying to finish high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.
And then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough for school so I could return to work. And then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying..
And suddenly I realize I forgot to live.
Why do so many of us get to the end of our days and then look back with regret, feeling like we haven’t truly lived?
You know what tends to get in the way of living a really rich, full, meaningful human life? You know what tends to get in the way of mindful living, perhaps the biggest obstacle? Well, the Buddha stated probably about over 2,500 years ago that craving or more accurately attachment to craving is our greatest obstacle. Sometimes people say he’s quoted as naming craving as the root of all suffering.
Now craving, you know this might sound as quite of an obscure thing that you can’t really quite get your head around but craving makes itself manifest in the belief I need something more or the sense I need something more. You know that belief, right? It’s the one where we keep dreaming: I’ll be happy one day when… It’s the one that keeps us striving and struggling our ways through the days looking for the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, hoping that this next thing that we’re straining at will finally fill us up.
You know I’ve heard every version of this pesky belief and I’ve said a lot of them to myself too. Do any of these sound familiar? When I get this car… when I take this holiday… When I get this dress, this house… then I’ll feel happy and whole. When I get this job… When I achieve my potential… When I find the right person, which often then becomes when I get rid of this person… Or when I have kids, which often becomes when the kids leave home… Or when I retire, then I can finally relax and be at peace and find wholeness. Any of these sound familiar?
What’s your own story of I need something more? Maybe it’s a spiritual story. When I finally purify my mind, when I find enlightenment then I’ll finally find wholeness and fulfillment.
This unconscious belief is a doozie. It keeps us looking for fulfillment in the two places it can never be found – outside ourselves and in the future. You know in Buddhism they have a word for living in a state of constant craving, they call it samsara which translates into English as endless wandering. It’s a state where we continuously search and search for satisfaction and wholeness but we can never quite grasp it. It’s a game we can never win because we are looking for that wholeness and satisfaction, as I said, in the two places where it can’t be found. In other words, it;s a game we can’t win because we’re looking for those two things in the places they can’t be found and the truth is happiness can only ever be found – this happiness that I am talking about by the way, this sense of satisfaction and wholeness, that kind of happiness can only ever be found in the present moment and it arises from within.
You know this is the essential and radical message of all the world’s wisdom traditions that the wholeness that we tend to seek outside of ourselves is already here, if we would just stop and drop in more fully on what’s here to be seen and known in this moment.
So here’s my invitation for us, what if in this next week and continuing on from that, we might continue this journey further on, but what if in just this next week, this one week we explore what it’s like to let go of this constant craving, we step out of samsara. Now, I’m not saying stop doing and creating and doing the same things that you do everyday in your life. But I’m saying what if we explore a new way of living the same life that we’re already living, one where life is embraced and enjoyed moment by moment instead of using these moments as a means to an end and having the sense that they’re just passing us by.
So here’s our exploration: how do we stop this constant seeking? Well by simply recognising that there’s something more. Beliefs are just thoughts. We recognise them for what they are, they are just thoughts, they are not reality. They are not the truth. They’re not something we have to play out. They’re not something that has to make a life into a stressful series of tasks that we have to get done.
So here’s the task: each time we discover that belief arising, whatever you’re story is you know, I’ll get there when I’ve got the job, the achievement, the person, when I’ve got rid of the person, when the kids finally behave themselves – when we find that belief arising of I need something more , I just need one more thing before I can be whole, we can just smile at it. Drop it. Take a deep, slow conscious breath returning our awareness to the present moment and the miracle of life that’s unfolding right in the middle of our eyes. And each time we feel ourselves rushing, restless, pushing, struggling, striving we can do the same. We can just gently note, perhaps mentally if that’s helpful for you, ah restlessness is here and with a friendly, kindly awareness, you know with a kindly attitude, we can take that deep, slow, conscious breath and returning, returning, returning to this moment. Letting that breath bring you home. Letting this be a homecoming and in returning to ourselves and our life in this way we can make the discovery that there’s no such thing as a mundane moment. If we’d only open our eyes to see it more fully. And we can use this exploration perhaps to make the discovery that the peace, the satisfaction, the contentedness, the wholeness that we’re looking for is actually right here in our own heart and our own minds if we just stop and open our hearts just to feel it in that moment.
So this is such a critical skill, if you will, in mindful living – the noticing when we’re getting caught up and the coming back home with a kindliness and gentleness and easefulness and allowing the insight to naturally unfold as we notice more and more that what we’re looking for is right here. And making that discovery over and over and over and over again and in this way, you know something that we might have thought of as a setback before: this craving, this restlessness or discontent can actually become like a wake up call. They can actually become a beautiful ally on our path to more mindful living. So each time we notice the something more belief or each time we find the pushing and the struggling back, we can use that as a wake up call to take that slow conscious breath that brings you home to yourself and the present moment.
So we’re learning how to notice ourselves caught in samsara and instead of playing it out just stop, breathe and come home to the moment. So I’ll be taking this journey with you, this exploration with you over the next week and if you would like to share your experience of what’s happening to you on FaceBook or Twitter or email feel free to let me know how it’s going for you and I’d be so curious to hear about your journey. And I’ll touch base again next week with another little story and an activity to kind of keep you touching in on this awareness of craving. And then over the next month we’re really going to unfold some really beautiful interviews and blogs and content to continue to deepen our exploration into this. Enjoy the ride. See you next time