Nature & Spirituality

What Happens When Mindfulness Gets Twisted

Woops, there goes your heart . . . maybe you wanna follow it?|What Happens When Mindfulness Gets Twisted|dianaklein.comSomewhere along the way, I’ve gotten it a bit wrong.

I started practicing mindfulness about five years ago. I have found it so helpful—in falling asleep, in coping with difficult emotions, in enjoying small things in a big way. On my path to healthfulness, mindfulness has been my greatest guide.

However, during my studies in this vein, when I was learning about how desires so often cause suffering, and about how we take false refuges in food and drugs and busy-ness, and all of this was making a ton of sense to me, I started to tell myself that I shouldn’t want anything. Because wanting was, at best, unhelpful and, at worst, lethal. I began to read all wanting as dangerous—including any inner spurring toward the pursuit of joy or a well-lived life. This too, I decided, would cause the same kind of suffering as always wanting just one more cookie.

Somehow, I forgot that it’s not so much about desire, but attachment to how things turn out. I also forgot that it’s not just the body or the mind that wants things; it’s also the soul. And all the soul really wants is to express itself, in the words of a movie from 1990 title: Truly, Madly,(and) Deeply.

Our souls whisper different things to us. They give us dreams of being star athletes, successful bakers, or great parents. They tell us these things so that we may experience life to the fullest, so that we may share our light with others. And, yeah, we can distort our souls’ desires. We can become so attached to them that we begin to believe we are less than nothing if we don’t achieve them. We can become so consumed by their pursuit that we have little mind for any of life’s other beauties. But that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

I have spent quite a lot of my life—even before I started studying mindfulness—trying to make myself smaller, trying to quiet my soul’s messages, telling myself: these are things I should not want. After all, happiness isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have. Right?

On the other hand, as I start admitting my dreams to myself, as I begin to know that believing in them is not only okay, but right and proper, I find that I do want what I have. I want these dreams. I want the work they ask of me. I want the fulfillment they bring. Even if it doesn’t all have a storybook ending, I find that they are not bringers of suffering, they are deliverers of life.

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Reading, Writing & Reading

At The Crossroads of Should and Must

At The Crossroads of Should and Must |

I recently finished a lovely book called The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find And Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. In the introduction she writes: “. . . I’ve found that things appear at the ideal time. Not before. And not after. Consider the possibility that this book made its way into your hands because you wanted it to. Because a part of you has seen a crossroads in your life, and you’re ready for the journey ahead . . .”

This seems to be the case for me. I found it while poking around a book store at Newark airport and thinking about how I was going to step forward into pursuing my passions. I had all this energy from my trip to The Somerset Folk Harp Festival—and that felt great, but I was worried. Would I simply go home and fall back into old routines, ignoring what mattered most to me because I was too scared to do otherwise?

There’s a lot of the how to find your passion in this book—which, at this point was not of much interest to me. After years of trying to deny my dreams, I was finally at a place where I could acknowledge completely what I wanted. What is special to me about this book is not the how, but the why. Some weeks ago, I commented to a friend on Facebook, who is in the process of making the huge life change of moving herself and two dogs from New York City to Malta: “So psyched for you and your bravery. I think that when any one of us lives her best/dream life, we all win.” And I believed this—about her—but not about myself. Following my dreams was okay, as long as it didn’t interfere with being the as perfect as possible daughter, sister, aunt, niece, friend, cat caretaker . . . you get the idea. Because, people are more important than dreams, aren’t they? And really, it’s not like I could ever achieve those dreams, not really. What I failed to realize was that this way of thinking was starving my spirit and, as a result, depleting my resources for being a loving relation. Which is especially sad, since connecting with my friends and family is one of my passions, too.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself, what a man can be, he must be.” Scribed in watercolor in The Crossroads of Should and Must, this quote from noted American psychologist Abraham Maslow brought me nearly to tears the first time I read it—and the second. I could feel that after spending a weekend immersed in music—one of my main passions—I was somehow more alive than I had been in months. And here was the reason why: by moving toward what I might be able to be, I was finding not only peace, but vitality. And from reading this book, I began to find the notion of following a dream becoming less about being selfish and delusional, and more about living the best life a human can live.

The other thing I got from this book was the confirmation that following ones dreams is not all brownies and kittens. It can be tedious, backbreaking, and frustrating. It’s also effing terrifying! The questions of worthiness, the vulnerability, the doubts that one inevitably faces in ANY heartfelt endeavor can seem insurmountable. And it was nice to hear someone say, hey, if you’re in pain or panic while you’re doing this, that’s totally normal. It doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It just means what you’re doing means a lot to you and because of that, the stakes are high. And, in a way, that’s a really good thing.

Have you read The Crossroads of Should and Must? What did it mean to you?

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