The Paradox of Mindfulness: Cycling the Wheel

The Paradox of Mindfulness: Cycling the Wheel

  • August 26, 2013

At front and center stage of Buddhist psychology is mindfulness: moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness is to know and see things as they are arising and passing. It’s a way of being that invites you to be fully alive and awake to your own life as: “Life is available only in the present moment” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Unlike Western psychology, Buddhist psychology finds wisdom in paradox. For this very reason, mindfulness and its use of paradox to meet life’s challenges, enables you to step over the paradoxical land-minds of what is placed before you. You change your automatic mind-set that this problem, pain, or difficulty should not be happening, and adopt a mindful-awareness that sees what’s not wrong instead. Problems are challenges. Crises are opportunities.

According to Buddha, the reason for suffering is resistance. Because we are driven by a need for comfort and fear of uncertainty, we delude ourselves into believing that life should not be difficult. When difficulty presents, we fight against it because it’s not supporting this position. We become obsessed with clinging onto what we want or need and being averse to what we don’t want or need. Yet, as much as we wish otherwise, life has unavoidable suffering. Paradoxically, freedom from suffering, explains the Buddha, is accepting or being with is. Without the weight of resistance and distortion on reality, we can “work” with what presents.

Rather than spending time in critique, evaluation, and interpretation and reacting against what’s happening, mindfulness invites you to reside in real time by tossing away the filter of judgment and putting on a neutral lens. When being in the moment with what is actually happening, as opposed to being in your head with what you wish were happening, you pause and check-in. You notice how tightly you’re holding onto disturbing thoughts laddened in judgment and distressing emotions and body tension that result. By releasing the grip of judgment, you can choose how you wish to respond.

Mindfulness starts from the perspective that you are whole and complete already,regardless of flaws or imperfections. This enables you to turn around and welcome whatever’s present; concentrate on the work not the results; look on the inside not on the outside; and be here not somewhere over there. You place your attention not on the situation per se but how you relate to the situation—and you do this with a gentle and kind embrace. Resistance is the provocation to close down; acceptance is the summons to open up.

It’s not about following the prescription that leads from point A to point B; rather it’s answering the invitation to “drop into your heart.” When cycling the wheel of paradox, you keep coming back to “loving yourself just as you are.” Throughout the course, you enter the kingdom of “wholeness.”

“Your vision will become clear
Only when you look into your heart…
Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens”
–Carl Jung

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