MINDFULNESS IN ACTION: Competence, Compassion, Creativity
Our ability as human beings to interact skillfully with the world around us depends on our own sense of well being. Applied Mindfulness Training helps people discover how the discipline of mindfulness meditation and contemplation fosters inner development and enriches everyday activities. Training ourselves to stay present leads to greater competence, compassion, and creativity, enhancing our ability to meet the challenges of an engaged life.
Meditation works in two ways:
First, simply sitting with whatever arises, we become familiar with thoughts, emotions, and feelings in a new way, recognizing the patterns of mind we identify with, that we see as “me”. Seeing this softens us, bringing perspective and humor. We don’t have to take all that mental chatter so seriously.
Second, meditation shows us something more fundamental: that we have an innate sense of presence, of just being here. This experience is so simple that we may miss it for most of our lives, aware of it perhaps only in fleeting moments of tenderness or beauty. Meditation allows us to see that simple presence is always there behind the traffic of constant thoughts: an endless canvas on which sense perceptions and other experiences are projected. Presence is what hears our thoughts, feels our emotions, and perceives the experience of the world.
As we cultivate our innate ability to rest in simple presence, our thoughts, opinions, and emotional upheavals lose their compelling momentum. Bringing presence into our everyday activities, we see situations and people more clearly and can drop our usual interpretations. We hear more clearly what people say to us, pick up subtle cues from our social environment, and remain present with our tasks. This attentiveness naturally allows us to act with skill and precision. That’s what we mean by competence.
From mindfulness, compassion arises naturally. Seeing how our own mind works, we realize that others are subject to the same mental ups and downs, an insight that enables us to look behind the behavior of people to whom we may previously have had knee-jerk reactions: the abrasive person at the office, the one who won’t look us in the eye, the annoying schmoozer. Coming to see how we are all, in some ways, quite alike brings a willingness to cut others some slack, and to help when we can.
Creativity, rather than being something to strive for, arises spontaneously from the fertile space of simple presence and the courage to go beyond familiar patterns. What stands in its way is the speed and jumble of our thoughts. Through meditation we ventilate our minds, learning how to interrupt our run-on mental sentences long enough to let fresh ideas emerge. Whether we are whipping up a delicious meal, planning a seminar, structuring a financial transaction, performing a piece of music, or dealing with a difficult work situation, resting in the space of presence allows creative insight to express itself.