Focus on the BIG Picture

Saints & mystics of all traditions, throughout the ages, all conclude that when we are able to appreciate life as it truly is, we become awe-struck with wonder & gratitude. A favorite quote to summarize this is by the Christian mystic & theologian, Julian of Norwich (1342-1416):

All shall be well,

and all shall be well,

and all manner of thing shall be well.

Your immediate impulse might be to yell "WHEN will things be well?" What prevents us from appreciating life as it truly is? Where's my happy, wonderful life?

If you complained about suffering to a Zen teacher, the teacher might respond, "Who is suffering?" Angrily, you might shoot back, "Me! I'm suffering!" The Zen teacher might then laughingly exclaim "Ahhhh!" Instead of a light turning on, you're much more likely spitting-mad, frustrated & even more miserable.

It might take years, decades, or even a lifetime to realize what this exchange actually meant, and much, much longer to fully integrate its meaning into daily life. But since nothing else truly works, it's definitely worth the effort. Moreover, the sooner we start in earnest, the better.

Focusing narrowly on one's own suffering, on "me, myself & I", is well-known to increase suffering:

Nevertheless, we're obsessed with "self-concern", its survival, its success. It's as if the "self" were some autonomous, independent, lonely, solid object, rather than a mere fluid, constantly-changing idea. The futility & foolishness of "self-concern" is what made the Zen master laugh, and might make us laugh as well & possibly change the focus of our attention.

The path to our own happiness is only by way of wisdom & love (not egocentric greed). Widening our view to "the BIG picture" of reality by getting past / beyond self-obsession, and truly seeing, deeply listening to & caring for other human beings, animals (allocentric), the environment (ecocentric), we naturally find ourselves at home, wiser & happier.

Mindfulness practices gently direct our awareness from a claustrophobic, addictive, almost exclusively "left-brained", egocentric, negativity-biased way of suffering, towards an open, spacious, free, "right-brained" / body / allocentric / ecocentric, direct experience of reality-based way of peace & happiness.

These ideas, in themselves, have the same impact as ideas about reducing alcohol consumption, healthy nutrition, and regular exercise.

PRACTICING Mindfulness REGULARLY, over a lifetime, brings forth profound changes - it's experiential learning.

court, Fundy - Photograph by Karen Stentaford

court, Fundy - photograph by Karen Stentaford

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