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Lions Roar : March 2018
suffering is an inextricable aspect of life, it is actually a cheerful religion. Its meditations are designed to teach people to watch their own minds without necessarily believing everything they think. Mindfulness, the ability to be with whatever is happening in a moment-to-moment way, helps one not be victimized by one’s most selfish impulses. Meditators are trained not to push away the unpleasant nor cling to the pleasant, but to make room for whatever arises. Impulsive reactions, in the form of likes and dislikes, are given the same kind of attention as everything else, so that people learn to dwell more consistently in their observing awareness, just as one does in classic modes of therapy. This observing awareness is an impersonal part of the ego, unconditioned by one’s usual needs and expectations. Mindfulness pulls away from the immature ego’s insistent self- concern, and in the process it enhances one’s equilibrium in the face of incessant change. This turns out to be enormously help- ful in dealing with the many indignities life throws at us. While the two approaches are very similar, the primary areas of concerns turned out to be different. For Freud, the ego could evolve only by giving up its ambitions of mastery. The ego he encouraged was a humbled one, wider in scope but aware of its own limitations, not driven so much by instinctual cravings but able to use its energies creatively and for the benefit of others. While maintaining a similar reliance on self-observation, Bud- dhism has a different focus. It seeks to give people a taste of pure awareness. Its meditation practices, like those of therapy, are built on the split between subject and object. But rather than finding uncovered instincts to be the most illuminating, Buddhism finds inspiration in the phenomenon of consciousness itself. Mindfulness holds up a mirror to all the activity of mind and body. This image of the mirror is central to Buddhist thought. A mirror reflects things without distortion. Our consciousness is like that mirror. It reflects things just as they are. In most people’s lives, this is taken for granted; no special attention is given to this mysterious occurrence. But mindfulness takes this knowing consciousness as its most compelling object. The bell is ringing. I hear it and on top of that I know that “I” am hearing it and, when mindful, I might even know that I know that I am hearing it. But once in a while in deep meditation, this whole thing collapses and all that is left is one’s mirror-like knowing. No “I,” no “me,” just pure subjective awareness. The bell, the sound, that’s it! It is very hard to talk about, but when it happens the free- dom from one’s usual identity comes as a relief. The contrast with one’s habitual ego-driven state is overwhelming, and much of the Buddhist tradition is designed to help consolidate the perspective of the “Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom” with one’s day-to-day personality. ♦ From Advice Not Given: A Guide To Getting Over Yourself. ©2018 Mark Epstein. Published by Penguin Books USA, a division of Random House LLC. Potential Project is a global leader in organizational mindfulness. Our passion and our mission is to enhance performance, resilience and creativity for individuals and organizations across the globe. We are expanding in North America and are looking for prospective trainers to join our team. Ideal candidates are strategic thinkers with excellent facilitation skills and exceptional business acumen while having significant corporate experience, a dedicated mindfulness practice and a strong commitment to being of service. We are especially looking for qualified applicants in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston and Vancouver. For further information about joining our team as a Trainer, please go to our website and complete an Expression of Interest Form at potentialproject.com/join-us LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 77