By Jason Briggs, MA, LMFT
“When in our right mind, everything is viewed as an expression of love or a call for love. In other words, the way I am toward you, the way I behave toward you, the way I think about you, the way I feel about you, is not changed by what you do…love would be the content (a perception I have of you), nothing would change.” – Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
There is a place in you, where no change has occurred, nor will occur, and is completely at rest. This place is nowhere and everywhere because it isn’t seen with eyes but is perceived with the mind. Helen Keller, the blind and deaf author and political activist, points to the activity of the mind and wisely names it vision, stating, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” So, it is clear that Helen is speaking to what we perceive, and perception doesn’t require the eyes to see and the ears to hear. This begs the question, what is it that perceives? It is the mind, and here in the mind, we find a vision and a purpose for our existence and our service to others that allows for acceptance.
Extant philosophies on mindfulness point to how long we have been formally studying and writing about the subjective experience. We can trace the history of mindfulness through spiritual and religious texts, back to Pakistan, in the Vedic scriptures of Hinduism and later in Buddhism. However, many references to mindfulness exist in other spiritualities and religions as well. “…Some commentators argue that the history of mindfulness should not be reduced to Buddhism and Hinduism, as mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Trousselard et al., 2014). So, there is more to explore here but roughly the earliest Hindu texts put mindfulness in the realm of study at about 4500 BCE and in many other texts, on through to the present and through many philosophic branches.
The movement and practice of mindfulness can be defined as a purposive activity of will, to be present to and aware of what is perceived here and now. One can view therapy as a mindfulness practice of sorts, as research on healing and growth shows that clients unexpectedly at times address many different issues in therapy, that they never knew existed upon commencing therapy. As the client and therapist grow more mindful, awareness of what were once unconscious issues become conscious. Also, for many clients, they see the same old issues they have had and may begin to recognize them on ever-deepening levels. So when we talk about being mindful, we must include the idea of slowing down as a task in therapy, being present to what is here and now and being open to what is.
Being present means we are not only looking with our eyes or hearing with our ears but rather, we are also perceiving with our mind. Our purpose determines what we see. As Kenneth Wapnick instructs in the psychospiritual book, A Course in Miracles, “Do I want to shift my attention from the world out there, to go back in my mind…and look upon it with love, gentleness, and kindness or with anger, judgment, and hate…”.
So whatever decision we make, it is our purpose that determines what our vision reflects, a purpose we may or may not be aware of and one that reflects our right-minded perception or wrong-minded perception of how we perceive ourselves, others and our world. If we look with the right mind, what we see will reflect a vision that is mindfully aware of the fact we are joined with others, and we are accepting of this fact. If we decide a wrong-minded or mindless purpose, we will see separation as the only reality and suffer accordingly. Identification of our purpose is a passive act of will and shouldn’t be considered mutually exclusive to normal ways of acting in the world, as we may be busy working with others personally and professionally in many varied roles and we can do so mindfully or not, depending on our purpose.
If what we decide that our vision is of the mind and not of the eyes, then we have been given great freedom as decision-makers. Countless decisions must, of course, be made in the world related to our roles and responsibilities. However, on the level of the mind, there are two decisions possible. One reestablishes vision as an activity of the mind and the other blocks vision and produces conflict within. So if I want to engage my roles and responsibilities as a partner, husband, father, teacher, student, lover, I can do so mindlessly or mindfully. My peace or lack thereof will follow and if I choose to perceive mindlessly, fear will be engendered. Fear indicates a mindless decision and so we can decide to return to the mind, in a way that completely looks at and accepts a mindfulness stance.
As the Course in Miracles encourages, “When your peace is threatened or disturbed in any way, say to yourself:
‘I do not know what anything, including this (the mindless perception we are having, that induces fear), means.
And so I do not know how to respond to it.
And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now.'”
Well, the obvious implication is that we will be willing to have a complete acceptance of what we are seeing and see that it is precisely our interpretation from the past that we are bringing to this experience and to then not decide to interpret it.
Let us take the great Bard of the West’s example when we forget to be mindful, remembering we can be like Shakespeare’s Cordelia who mindfully chided her father’s egoic false love in King Lear. Cordelia, turning away from her father’s demands to profess her love of him in public, pivots instead professing, “I will love and be silent.” The world is in the mind and when we decide to join it, ever so gradually, consciously, increasing our time we spend mindfully, purposely and with a shared vision, we can come to accept where we are right here and now. We can learn to shift our purpose, vision, and way of being from mindlessness to mindfulness.
Trousselard, M., Steiler, D., Claverie, D. Canini, F. (2014). The History of Mindfulness put to the test of current scientific data: Unresolved questions. Encephale-Revue de Psychiatrie Clinique Biologique et Therapetique, 40 (6), 474-480. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2014.08.006
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