Be a light unto yourself. Reflections & cultivation.
“Initiate giving. Don’t wait for someone to ask. See what happens – especially to you. You may find that you gain greater clarity about yourself and about your relationships, as well as more energy rather than less. You may find that, rather than exhausting yourself or your resources, you will replenish them. Such is the power of mindful, selfless generosity. At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient… only the universe rearranging itself.”
– Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
There are so many simply beautiful sentiments in this book, they almost bring tears to my eyes. The above passage makes me weep with the joy of being alive. You start with giving gifts and blessings to yourself such as self-acceptance. You practice accepting these gifts feeling deserving and without obligation. Give away energy. Direct it towards others and yourself with no thought of gain. Kingly giving is to give as if you had inexhaustible wealth. Share your abundance of all kinds – your best self, your vitality, your spirit, your openness and your presence. Share it with yourself, your family and the world.
We have rough edges of self-cherishing, which lead us to feel that giving won’t lead to adequate reward, won’t be appreciated or will leave us depleted. This is fear-based self-protection. It causes us distance, isolation and diminishment. In practising mindful giving, we discover expanded versions of ourselves.
It is not even necessary to give anything away. Generosity is an inward state. It is a willingness to share with and trust in the world and ourselves. Isn’t that beautiful?
Apart from generosity, Kabat-Zinn also talks about trust. If we trust ourselves or another, we find a powerful stabilising element encompassing security, balance and openness. If we don’t trust in our abilities to be mindful, we will not persevere in cultivating the qualities of observation, attending, knowing, reflecting, sensing… and they will wither away.
And I love the chapter on letting go. While ‘high in the running for the New Age cliché of the century’, real letting go is an invitation to cease clinging to any ideas, things, events, perspectives and desires. Release with full acceptance the stream of the present moments as they unfold, without getting caught up in our attraction to or rejection of them. Kabat-Zinn calls it ‘the intrinsic stickiness of wanting’. Letting go means choosing to become transparent to the strong pull of our own likes and dislikes.
Patience is another of the qualities that lead to mindfulness. ‘Patience is an ever-present alternative to the mind’s endemic restlessness. Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtle or not so subtly, is anger. It’s the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it.’
Personally I think that humility is the most essential virtue needed for mindfulness practice, as lots of the other qualities stem from that. It’s the one I have trouble with myself as for someone with low self-worth, I certainly have an inflated sense of the importance of my own feelings! There is a chapter in the book called You Have to Be Strong Enough to Be Weak. In in, Kabat-Zinn talks about people that give the impression of being invulnerable to feeling hurt. I’m afraid I am (or should I say was?) one of these people. For years I had a complex that I can’t let anyone see my weak emotions. I felt I couldn’t ever tell someone they’d hurt me, whether a kid in the playground, or a partner or friend. I felt I had to be impervious to all. This was probably in part because of my upbringing. My parents (the only family I had) didn’t talk about feelings and that was that. I’m not placing blame, just locating something specific and true.
Kabat-Zinn makes a clever leap between those who hide behind the powerful shield of their image; and those who believe they are wise meditators, who mistakenly believe they have everything under control and are invincible as a result of their meditative experiences. To be truly strong, there is no need to advertise it to others or yourself. That was quite an unexpected but obvious message of practicing mindfulness and meditation – that shouting it from the rooftops would defeat the point of it. So I will just cultivate it quietly, carefully, slow growing from within.