The daughter-in-law of Charlie and Darlene Stewart, both senior students of my teacher, mentors to me, and members of my Buddhist Sangha, recently wrote to Charlie to inquire, “What does your mindfulness practice teaching say about the current state of the country?”
This is Charlie’s response: Here is my best shot at addressing your question. Mindfulness is bringing awareness to an object, question, or situation for the purpose of viewing the object in reality “as it is.” Seeing something “as it is” means seeing it free from stories, memories, habit reactions, guilt, shame, or resentment from the past and free from stories, anxiety, and fear about the future. This is what is meant by being mindful in the present moment.
The mind is conditioned to reference the past and anticipate the future to know what to do, but in doing so, it distorts the view of reality as it really is and often torments itself with nightmarish projections. We practice consciously stopping the grasping at thoughts of past and future and calming the mind to be stable as possible to see as clearly as possible what is really going on. As the dust of the thinking mind clears, comprehension and understanding from a wiser source of mind surfaces and our actions fit the situation more effectively.
A mind that is settled in the present moment has a greater sense of being safe, and taking care of business. In our present situation, we cannot see the virus. Our reactions are not about the virus. They are about what we are being told about the virus and the behavior of other people. What we are told will vary with the fear and stress level of the people who are talking to us and our conditioning from the past.
We become mindful so we can listen without fear and appropriately apply our common sense, experience, and learning to the tangible conditions of the present moment. We don’t throw out our experience and knowledge from the past but with mindfulness we examine its validity, its limits, and usefulness in this present situation. To guide us further in our actions we might ask ourselves whether the intended behavior will be beneficial to ourselves and others. Love, Charlie