We have a bombing range in our front yard. The bombers are two large pine trees, and the bombs are pine cones. Luckily, no one has yet been conked over the head by any coniferous ordnance that has dropped from the towering heights of these trees. But it’s only a matter of time.
Meanwhile, dozens of cones per week are shed, populating the grounds with ankle turners for those who perambulate in the dark. So once in awhile some poor schlub is tasked with the chore of raking up these invading cones.
It occurred to me one day, as I rested while leaning against the rake, that these damned trees must have already produced tens of thousands of pine cones over the course of their lives. And what do they have to show for it? Nothing. The hundreds of thousands of seeds of the tens of thousands of cones that have dropped from these evergreens have yet to produce a single new pine tree.
And that’s because schlemiels like me religiously rake the cones up, before the seeds get a chance to fall out. Then again, I must also give credit to the squirrels and birds and such, that harvest the pine nuts before I show up with my gardening tools.
But I’m not perfect, and neither are squirrels and birds. One of these days we’re gonna screw up. And then one of those pine nuts will get its chance. It will take root and sprout a brand new pine tree. And then, finally, it will be mission accomplished for our mammoth pine trees. They’ll have something to show for their efforts.
It only takes one success for a pine tree to complete its job at reproduction.
I think it’s the same with humans and their opinions. Opinions come from opining, so I think it’s safe to compare an opinion to a pine cone. Some humans try to be helpful, and are full of all kinds of opinions and advice. We are constantly bombarded, every single day, with messages of persuasion from each other. Sometimes it’s all we can do to rake through the muck of all this information, and uncover a grounded sense of reality.
We usually mean well with all our opinions. But so often they’re only half-regarded, if not ignored altogether. Rare is the occasion when something we say makes a real difference in someone else’s life.
But like the pine trees, it only takes once. If only one time in your life an opinion, or observation, or piece of advice helps change a life for the better for some ignominious, benighted person wallowing in the mire of a life run poorly, then you will have done your job. You will have fulfilled your mission at helping life to go on.
DISCLAIMER: If you’ve ever given bad advice, you may have to help more than one person, to countervail the harm you’ve inflicted on others. Past performance may not be a reliable indicator of future returns. Consult physician before using internally.
This is the final installation of a 27-part series, featuring my book, Chasing Unicorns. Hooray, it’s finally over! To read the previous installation, 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 you learned that the greatest benefit from mindfulness is insight. Insights are unique ideas, thoughts, revelations, inspirations, and cogitations, that often manifest straight out of the blue. Putting insights into practice leads to wisdom. This is the path of mystics, that leads to enlightenment. And it’s the path toward the greatest happiness possible.
On the Path of Unicorns, Part 7
Other Benefits of Mindfulness
I suppose I should also mention some of the other benefits of mindfulness, just for the record. But keep in mind, they don’t hold a candle to insight. Insight is the most fundamental and powerful spinoff from the workings of our minds. Everything else is just gravy, or frosting on the cake. Which, by the way, should never be eaten together. Gravy and frosting don’t mix well.
Mindfulness has been touted as a magic bullet for a number of ills. It’s like a Swiss Army knife, or a Jack-of-all trades. For example, psychiatrists have used it to treat depression, stress, and anxiety.
Research suggests that mindfulness boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, and lowers the risk of developing dementia.
A mindful mind is less prone to feel desperate in dire situations. Mindfulness can help you sleep better, and prevent sleep deprivation. And if it really does boost your immune system, then it’s good for your health. It’s also touted to reduce blood pressure.
And I’m sure if you’re a golfer, mindfulness can help rid you of the yips, so you can sink that putt. If you’re a poker player, mindfulness can help you detect and stop your own tells, while noticing the tells of others. I’ll go all in, and assert it’s possible to get rich that way. But I’ve never tried it, so don’t quote me.
Mindfulness has also been used to effectively treat substance abuse. And in prisons, schools, and other institutions, mindfulness has been used in programs that help develop empathy. Thus, a mindful person is more likely to become a trustworthy person, since having empathy is a powerful way to win the trust of others.
The Fount of Life
Mindfulness observes and keeps tabs on the Source of all things. The mind. Everything comes from Mind. Mind is the All. It is the raw material of the universe. It contains more within it than you’ll ever find anywhere else, including the average house of a hoarder.
The mind is a tireless force. It never quits. It’s like every employer’s dream. It’s always at work, 24/7.
The mind is the very Source and fount of life. That’s because life is change, and the mind is constantly changing, thus creating new life. Just look at your own mind and you’ll be impressed, and possibly aggravated, with how it changes all the time. Your mind is always busy, constructing new thoughts, new concepts, and new perceptions.
This is why it’s impossible to stop your mind from thinking, while meditating. Your mind is life. It’s no more possible to stop your mind from thinking, than it is to stop life itself. Or at least, the eternal kind of life.
And in my opinion, that’s a good thing. I like life.
When we observe our own minds we are observing all the new constructs that it’s constantly inventing. Those new constructs tend to disappear when we apply a strong enough focus on them. But then they are immediately replaced by newer constructs. You can’t stop the mind from constructing. Not even the most powerful meditation can stop this.
Now I’ll admit that it’s possible to achieve a sense that the mind has gone blank, when you apply a strong dose of mindfulness to it. But then, how do you know your mind has actually gone blank? You can only know because your tricky, wriggly mind, has squirmed out of your control and constructed the concept of blankness, for you to perceive.
And then, as you congratulate yourself for all this blankness, your ever-inventive mind elevates your self-image to that of a champion meditator. Thus, more constructs. So you see, you can’t stop your mind from constructing new things.
The best you can do is to watch your mind as it constantly goes about its business. Watch those constructs rise, and then watch them get demolished, over and over, under the scrutiny of your mind’s eye. But that’s good enough, because the very act of watching your mind somehow stimulates it, so that it begins to produce more and more unique insights. Unicorns are born, for your enjoyment and practical use.
Watching your mind takes you to the Source of life. This Source is magical, and it loves being watched. And it will richly reward you for all of the attention you pay to it. You will receive many unique insights, and an opportunity to develop wisdom and enlightenment, simply by putting the insights into action.
And this will make you truly, genuinely, and increasingly happy.
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.]
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