This is the latest installation of a 27-part series, featuring my book, Chasing Unicorns. To read the previous installation, CLICK THIS LINK. For the next post in this series, CLICK THIS LINK. To start at the beginning, CLICK THIS LINK. To read the entire book at once, tap the book cover. Thanks for reading!
RECAP: Yesterday we reviewed a few of the meditation instructions commonly taught by gurus. For instance, we learned that doing one thing at a time can help mindfulness. Also, repeating over and over in your mind what you’re doing in the moment, can also help you to be mindful. Watching your breath is a good way to observe your mind with dispassion. And watching your passions as they arise, can also be beneficial. But speaking of benefits, in this chapter we’ll be learning the main benefit of mindfulness.
On the Path of Unicorns, Part 6
The Main Benefit of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has many benefits, but the main benefit is insight. That’s my very strong and steadfast opinion, which I’m willing to swear on the twisty, pointy horn of any unicorn. And that’s because insight is where the unicorns are at.
Also, to develop the most insight, you must be mindful of everything, and not just your breath. This is why I consider informal mindfulness to be superior to formal. In fact, I think it’s essential, whereas formal mindfulness is optional. So don’t fret it. You never have to practice formal mindfulness, if you don’t want to.
But I do. I generally practice the formal stuff for about 15 minutes per day. Which is far less than most monks and meditation masters recommend, but I think it’s enough. Maybe more than enough.
I practice while lying in bed, because I’m lazy. So it’s actually beditation. But I’ve been known to skip days, and I’ve been known to be so tired, that I’ve slept straight through it, without getting in more than a few seconds of meditation.
I find that formal mindfulness helps me to build my concentration for the task of informal mindfulness. With formal mindfulness I can concentrate very hard on watching my mind, without anything going awry.
I liken it to a baseball player who stands in the on-deck circle swinging a weighted bat. When it’s his turn at the plate, his muscles are toned and ready for the lighter bat he now wields, allowing him to swing it with greater ease.
But no ballplayer takes a weighted bat with him to the plate, to swing at real pitches. So it is with informal mindfulness. You’re engaging in the real, everyday activities of this world, unlike with formal mindfulness. And to focus on these activities, you have to apply your mindfulness with a lighter touch.
This gives you an opportunity to be mindful of a wide variety of things, and not just your breath, or how your butt feels from perching on a zafu for uncomfortable lengths of time.
Also, informal mindfulness is done all the time. It never ends. Meanwhile, most people, other than monks and gurus, have little or no time for formal mindfulness. So the sheer amount of informal mindfulness we can engage in, makes it most likely to produce the most benefits from mindfulness.
There are many benefits that derive from a long-term practice of mindfulness. Why hell, it’s like Christmas. But as I asserted above, I think the best present you can ever unwrap is the gift of insight.
Insight is an aptly yclept term. Because it reflects exactly what you’re doing when you’re being mindful. You’re turning your sights in, upon your mind. And as you turn your sights in, voila! You get insight!
I don’t know quite why it works or how it works. It’s FM. Fucking Magic. I have my theories. Numerous theories, in fact. But I’m not sure if any of them are valid. I just know that every-minute, informal mindfulness has a way of producing very profound insights.
Insights are unique ideas, thoughts, revelations, inspirations, and cogitations, that often manifest straight out of the blue. You’ll be minding your own business, with your mindfulness turned on, say, halfway, while working, playing, or doing whatever. And then suddenly, something profound will occur to you.
A light bulb will switch on inside your head. An intriguing idea or thought will stop you in mid-track. A eureka moment, an epiphany, a sudden enlightenment, will stun you as powerfully as a 50,000 volt taser.
These insights cannot be predicted, forced, or prevented. They just occur whenever they decide to occur. So you can’t say, “Abracadabra, may I be stricken with a profound insight, right at this very moment!” Well, I guess you CAN say that, but it probably won’t work, unless you get lucky.
No, insights just happen. They’re like unicorns, suddenly appearing out of nowhere, dashing out of the deep forest of your mind, and prancing around, bedazzling you with their unique splendor.
Each insight presents an opportunity. At the very least, they give you something unique to contemplate. And since happiness comes from uniqueness, you’re given some happy thoughts to consider.
But often, they also allow for action. For instance, if you get the unique idea for a home improvement, you can then grab your hammer and saw and start working at it. Or a unique solution may occur to you, for solving a problem. Putting the solution to action will let you know how helpful the insight is.
And to be clear, not all insights are helpful. Some are just fanciful will-o’-the-wisps of no practical value. And sometimes you have to put them into action to figure that out. But many are surprisingly helpful.
Helpful or not, you must put an insight into action in order to determine its value. And this is how you develop wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience. The wisest practitioners of meditation are those who’ve ridden a lot of unicorns.
Thus, mindfulness leads to insight, and insight leads to wisdom. This is the path of mystics, that leads to enlightenment. And it’s the path toward the greatest happiness possible. Because it’s the most effective way to catch unicorns, and have unique experiences.
Now, you may want to point out to me that insight happens to everyone, and not just to those who practice mindfulness. It’s true, and I agree. Everybody gets a profound insight, now and then. And I think that’s because everybody practices mindfulness to at least a rudimentary, subconscious, and unintentional degree. I believe mindfulness is a natural function of our minds.
But when you make it a point to be mindful, you’ll become much more mindful than the average person. And then insights will occur to you much more often.
Look at mindfulness the same as your own scrawny muscles. If you start working out, those muscles will grow. And before you know it, you’ll no longer struggle with lifting things like lint and feathers. In fact, you’ll be able to handle much larger loads, such as bricks, boulders, and bags of Portland cement.
In the same way, if you persistently practice informal, every-minute mindfulness, your mind will begin to produce more and more insights. You’ll become like a muscle man on the beach, with a much stronger mind than the average person. And you’ll have more insights, more wisdom, more enlightenment, and more happiness, than you’ve ever possessed before.
[There are other benefits of mindfulness that merit some mention, that haven’t been mentioned yet. So tomorrow I’ll just go ahead and mention them. And it’s also worth mentioning that tomorrow the torture ends, when I finally wrap this book up. Thank you? Don’t mention it.]