A picture of ice in a pond that is broken, cracked, separated, and frozen back together.
Mindfulness, to me, is merely knowing what motivations I have going in my brain. In other words, what thoughts or beliefs are motivating my actions, thinking, or emotions?
I think it was said best in John 8:32 of the Christian bible, “Seek the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
I find it a very liberating feeling when I believe I’ve searched my mind profoundly, and I can progress with a situation or behavior with the knowledge that I am following my true self and my core values. Somebody once wrote, “When I seek the deepest truth in my life, it frees me to move forward into a reality that I choose.” To me, this is mindfulness in action!
That does not mean it is simple. Nor does it mean that I’ll like the options. Sometimes it is a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils. But when it is an ugly decision, I can make it knowing that I’ve searched my heart, soul, and mind to find as many options as possible, and I can choose wisely among them.
Mindfulness isn’t always about feeling good.
Sometimes decisions I make don’t feel okay. That probably means my Survival Mind is not happy with the decision I’ve made. The Survival Mind generates emotions in reaction to my thoughts or beliefs being benefited or threatened. Good or bad, if the feeling reinforces the Survival Mind’s programs or ideas, it rewards that program further. However, when we make choices based on all the information and not just the feelings underlying the program, the Survival Mind sometimes fights back with feelings of discouragement in some form or another. Emotions of guilt, anger, depression, melancholy, sadness, rage, confusion, and any other discouraging feelings you can name, are all in the Survival Mind’s arsenal to be used when our deepest thoughts or beliefs are unheeded. Any time we feel an emotion, either positive or negative feeling, rest assured that a thought or belief is being triggered. Remembering that fact helps us with mindfulness.
If we feel a huge surge of emotions and recognize that we are feeling that surge, we can immediately ask ourselves what thought is underneath that feeling. We can listen to the answer (which will be a deep-seated thought or belief), and we can then consider that information in our decision. As Tony D’Souza says, “that is mindful living and choiceful living.” We don’t have to lose ourselves in that river of emotion, letting it take us wherever it wants. When we lose ourselves in the emotional flow, we aren’t generally consciously thinking. We are only reacting, and reaction rarely helps a situation. Instead, if we recognize that a Survival Mind program is running, we can consider its input and then be proactive in the direction that is most favorable for us with all the variables involved. That is genuine conscious living.
Mindfulness is paying attention to what our being is thinking and feeling, and then acting on all of that knowledge.
The Survival Mind is frequently concerned with feeling good. Thus it will not always let you see areas in your life that most need your attention. A good friend calls this an ego block. It’s when a part of our mind tries to hide information from us because that information doesn’t feel positive. Mindfulness is when you refuse to let areas hide. It searches out the deepest part of our minds to find all the variables that our amazingly talented brain can see but not always express.
Here’s an example based on a typical stereotype of the male midlife crisis: We see this example portrayed in movies and TV frequently because it’s such a stereotype. Stereotypes tend to have some truth in them—like this one. The midlife man who ditches his wife of twenty years finds a twenty-something girlfriend and a red sports car and acts twenty years old again. If you ask that man why he’s behaving like this, he’ll have amazing answers to justify his actions. Answers like he’s in love; he feels young and alive again. He needs the car to look good for his power meetings. His wife was boring. His kids are grown. His career benefited from the schmoozing with his hot new girlfriend, etc. Really?! Is that the best his Survival Mind can create? Generally, it is, mainly because the Survival Mind does not have any logical or rational processing power.
As an example, don’t accept those answers and ask him why again. What happens? He’ll probably first try to give you the same answers using different words. These are lateral answers. They get no further into his rational. However, keep asking why. What begins to happen? Usually, he’ll start getting defensive, as though you’re threatening him. And by his Survival Mind’s perspective, you are. The Survival Mind can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined in our heads. This is a great example of an ego block!
The Survival Mind developed to help us survive, and it has done an excellent job; there are over seven billion of us now. Approval is one of the Survival Mind’s primary tools. If our tribe accepts us, we have a sense of protection. If a tiger came into the village from the forest, the tribe could gang up on the tiger and scare it away. There’s perceived safety in numbers.
Now, come back to the present day and see the Survival Mind’s desire for approval happening with that midlife crisis man. If you ask the man repeatedly why, and you don’t accept his lateral answers, he starts to get closer to having to answer the real truth. Maybe he’s bored with himself, his wife, or his job. Perhaps he’s feeling his mortality and is scared of dying. Maybe he wants to feel vital again. All of these answers can feel embarrassing or seen as a sign of weakness in his mind. He’s afraid that if he admits the truth, he’ll lose approval.
His Survival Mind can’t see the difference between a real need for approval for physical survival and a perceived need for approval for mental survival, so it turns on full blast. He starts becoming defensive and reactionary, as though he was under threat. If we push the man far enough, he might even get violent. All this, over being embarrassed. There is no actual threat to his survival. Yet his mind can’t see the difference.
Mindfulness will not change his embarrassment over the real truth behind his actions. If the hypothetical situation I created above were real, he would still feel embarrassed even if he was self-aware. The difference is that if he is mindful of his motivations, he can then choose which way to steer his life instead of just continuing to react to the negative emotions he experienced when midlife hit him. He can consciously choose his life and behavior instead of reacting to the subtle pressures he’s experiencing inside himself.
Mindfulness is the ability to choose one’s life instead of reacting to one’s emotions.
To achieve mindfulness, you must ask yourself. What do I genuinly believe about this situation? Contact Blair here to learn how to practice awareness and gain more control in your life.
Peace be with you.
Posted January 31, 2015
Updated June 24, 2020