Mindfulness in 2016: A Silver Bullet Resolution?

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On this New Year’s Eve morning I spent some time reading the blog entry I wrote exactly one year ago today, “Mindfulness in 2015: A Silver Bullet Resolution.”  I liked what I read.  That’s a nice blog post, I said to myself.  I was proud of it, proud of the writing and of the sentiment expressed but very disappointed in myself. In the assessment of the previous year in light of this particular resolution, I had clearly failed. You can follow the link above, if you like, to read the entry in full, but for now, let me just quote the passage here where the actual resolution is made:

I resolve in 2015 to be more mindful and to find opportunities daily for meditation practice.  And to conclude, I want to make a short list of areas in my life where mindfulness may become particularly handy.

Simple enough, yes. And the short list of areas wherein mindfulness may come in handy? Last year I listed these: mindful drinking, mindful working, mindful parenting, and mindful creativity. Now, I’ve said that in the year 2015 I failed in my resolve.  That’s how I felt at first–on a gut level. Perhaps, that is not the best approach to take here.  Perhaps, it would be safe to say that I was more mindful in 2015 than I was in 2014. Let’s say it’s true, and that, by itself, is something, isn’t it? But I did not meditate daily or even find opportunities to meditate daily. My drinking was not nearly as mindful as I hoped it would be. My school year was as stressful if not more so than the previous year, and this school year is shaping up to be a stressful one as well. Take a look at “Against the Wall: A Teacher’s Manifesto” for an assessment of how things are going in this particular arena. It is possible, but not verifiable, that I had fewer struggles with my son this year than I have had in previous years. So there may be some gains in that area, and maybe mindful parenting resulted in fewer gaskets blown overall. As for creativity, my fiction writing has stalled and sputtered quite a bit, which is really the writing I want to be doing most, while my poetry and my blogging was quite successful in terms of words written and posts published.  Musically, it’s been a bad year.  The monthly songwriting has suffered. As part of a songwriting circle we’ve been writing six songs a month since 2004; this year, we were successful less than half the time at producing anything at all. But I guess that part of the practice of mindfulness around creativity would be about accepting what comes as a gift and not beating oneself up when nothing comes at all. It’s not a personal failure. It is what it is. Right?

To me, mindfulness has to do with being right with the world and being right inside the head, to simply be conscious and intentional about what it is we do, why we do it, and how we respond to the world, to our experiences, and in our relationships . It has to do with our relationship with and understanding of The Four Noble Truths: life is suffering; suffering has causes, those causes can be discovered, and through practice of the eightfold path there is a way to minimize suffering or at best transcend it. That’s the key, isn’t it, to understand what causes us to suffer and to take steps to minimize such suffering.  This is, at least, the way I understand it, and I envision a meditative practice as being helpful toward feeling more balanced, feeling unhinged less often, reducing stress, finding clarity about issues that bug me, and ultimately, suffering less.

So I just stole this blog post title from last year’s, changed 2015 to 2016, and then I added a question mark at the end. Mindfulness was not a silver bullet for me in 2015.  Perhaps, my expectations were too high. Maybe I was not thoroughly committed. When I was most successful, during a single week in July, I had companions, a sangha, if you will. And this might be a key element in finding more success with this resolution, which, I think, is worth trying again–even if I fail again.  I need to take a class. Go to a temple. Find a community.  Try yoga. It’s too hard, nearly impossible, I think, to go it completely alone. Let’s try a new and improved resolution for 2016:

I resolve in 2016 to be more mindful, to find opportunities daily for meditation practice, and to seek out a community, some companionship on the journey.

That can’t be so hard.  Happy New Year friends, readers, and strangers.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Self Reflection

5 responses to “Mindfulness in 2016: A Silver Bullet Resolution?

  1. Happy 2016 Friend! I’d love to see you try a self-compassion practice. I find the work of Dr. Kristin Neff very reassuring and inspiring. Check out the Insight Timer app for your phone. I have been using the app for four years and it has been instrumental in maintaining my daily meditation practice. Please feel free to shoot me an email if you want some simple tips for starting up a sustainable practice, or for some simple encouragement–because we all need that sometimes! My email is lorien@lorienyoga.com Blessings to you for a wonderfully creative and fulfilling 2016!

    • Thanks for this, Lorien! Happy new year to you as well. So, I’ve had the Insight Timer for a while now, but have never heard of Kristin Neff. Thank you. I will check her out. Hey, just out of courtesy–would you like me to edit out your email above–or is that a public address? Thanks for being so generous.

      • Thanks for asking Michael, it’s a public address. And do check out Kristin Neff; she has devoted the last ten years of her research career to self compassion and its applications in our work, relationships, and lives in general. It’s pretty revolutionary stuff. I’d love to see it taught in the schools.

  2. Hey Michael! Good for you for continuing the inner search and for going so public with it! One thing I’m working on and that I think is key (and related to your friend Lorien’s self-compassion thought): Being mindful is being present in every moment, regardless of whether it is joyful or full of suffering. Allowing those moments of suffering is part of the journey too (ugh!) But I’m finding that when I give myself a break because I’m sad/frustrated/aimless/procrastinating/lazy/angstful/grouchy/hormonal/whatever, something lifts a little and I can relax some. Then it all shifts again and I can find creativity/happiness/contentment/love/light/intrigue/whatever …

    Meow, Michelle

    • Hey Michelle, thanks for this. We can’t annihilate suffering. Instead, we find a way to cozy up with it. Even, perhaps, to talk about minimizing it is the wrong approach–or not the most enlightened. I’m so honored to be your friend and to have you reading my little bloggy-blog.

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