From Mind-filled-Mess to Mindfulness Cultivating a Daily Spiritual Practice

A Six-Series Practicum Training

With Dr. Stephen J. Johnson

Over the course of a full year I facilitated a series of six Practicums on Mindfulness that commenced in January of 2008. A Practicum is essentially an experiential workshop in which you get to experiment with the process of learning skillful actions or practical tools for accomplishing intended goals.  The overall goal of the Training was to investigate and understand how mind, brain and body work together in ways that enhance personal growth and healing through engaging in the practices of meditation, conscious connected breathing and enlightened discourse.  Essentially these one-day events were conceived to provide opportunities for attention to Dharma, which is the basic ground underlying the contemplative teachings and practices enlightening us to the transitory or impermanent nature of all phenomena, including mental states.

The willingness to be intimate with the mystical nature of one’s soul, in contrast with the mind’s tendency for attachment to the conceptual illusions about the world, allows us to more fully comprehend the distinction between self and selflessness.  Our challenge today is how to find interior peace, compassion and wisdom within the heart of change as we engage with the exterior world and walk a path of devotion.  I was inspired to present the training and feel blessed to offer these teachings to those traversing a spiritual path.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that most people tend to shift between states of ordinary consciousness, semi-consciousness and deep unconsciousness.  Many are typically not aware of what we refer to as Mindfulness, characterized by purposeful attention to what’s so in the present moment with relaxed presence and focused awareness devoid of critical judgment as in condemnation but rather utilizing wise judgment as in discernment.  It could be said that people’s minds are full of too much unwanted stuff and most are not able to turn their minds off freeing themselves from the constant chatter of unnecessary thoughts.  Today, most individuals experience mind-filled-ness rather than Mindfulness.  Many just seem to be mindless rather than mindful these days.

During our state of ordinary unconsciousness we often find ourselves overwrought with thought processes and emotions, reactions, desires, projections and aversions.  This tends to be our normal waking state.  In this state we are run by our egoic minds and are unaware of Being.  When we are caught up in a perpetual state of doing we are possessed by activity that is driven by compulsive and addictive behaviors.  In that case we have become human doings rather than actualizing our God given right to be human beings.

In training oneself to live in a heightened state of Mindfulness it is helpful to engage in certain practices that concretize the experience making it real and vital to you.  Anything worth taking the time to learn is truly worth incorporating into your life as a useful tool in your toolbox.  Having the right tool for the task at hand can be most helpful.  Practices are like tools in that they are practical instruments for use in dealing with life’s challenges.

We may not be able to control what lesson life has dealt us, but with the right practices at hand, we have a better opportunity to control how we respond to the challenge.  Let’s consider some of the practices that can expand your state of Mindfulness.  This is not necessarily a complete list but I wanted to start somewhere and during my own meditations I was guided to present this particular series of practices and, in all likelihood, I will add to this list as I am further inspired through my involvement with the work.

The Practice Of Non-Resistance

Let’s consider for instance the concept of resistance and the practice of non-resistance.   For a moment place both of your hands in prayer position, palm against palm.  Simply feel the touch of your flesh and the warmth of your body heat.  Now apply some gentle pressure, one hand pushing gently against the other.  Just feel the subtle tension that has been created by this act.  Increase the pressure slightly and notice how it feels.  Notice how the resistance translates through your hands and into your arms and up into your shoulders.  Increase the pressure even more and notice how the tension can be felt in your chest and upper back and become aware of how far from the source of the tension in your hands the pressure has radiated into other parts of your body.

You are now practicing Mindfulness.  You are focusing your attention on the awareness of how resistance affects your physical body.  Perhaps, you are also aware of how this process is affecting your thoughts and maybe even your emotions.  Now release the tension and notice what it feels like to be free of the effects of the tension.  You have just let go and in a way have surrendered.  There’s no more fight.  You are non-resistant…at least for the moment.  Most people, and maybe even you, are typically unconscious of the resistance that exists in their lives on a day-to-day basis but it is present none-the-less doing whatever it’s doing.

Take a few minutes now to contemplate this question, “where else could resistance reside within me and how am I dealing with the stress that is impacting me from the outside?”  How do you hold on or hold back?  What are you resisting in your life today that you might choose to let go of and free yourself from, creating more space and spaciousness around and within you?  What fills your mind with thoughts that plague you?  Do you tend to obsess or perseverate on thoughts that just cause worry, nervousness and anxiety?  What would it be like to free your mind from ego driven chatter and to experience the peace that passes all understanding and accentuates through stillness and silence?

Science of Mind Practitioner Iyanla Vanzant states, “Resistance to doing what we know must be done is a derivative of fear.  Fear is a tool of the ego.  Fear, cleverly disguised as resistance, supports unwillingness.  We are unwilling to be wrong, to look or sound stupid, to be challenged or defeated.  The more entrenched we become in resistance, the further we move away from a state of willingness.

The Divine does not remember our errors or calculate our perceived defeats.  Nor does the divine energy of life judge our methods or choices.  The Divine merely asks us to be willing to do whatever is necessary to move into our own state of divinity, which means that we must develop wisdom, judgment, and courage through willingness.”
One Day My Soul Just Opened Up (published by Fireside Books)

How often do you feel truly at ease within yourself?  On the level of your thinking mind do you find a great deal of resistance in the form of judgment, discontent and mental projections?  On the emotional level do you notice an undercurrent of unease, tension, boredom or nervousness?  Both are aspects of the mind in its habitual resistance mode.

Eckhart Tolle states in his breakthrough book, The Power of Now, “In ordinary unconsciousness, habitual resistance to or denial of what is creates the unease and discontent that most people accept as normal living.  When this resistance becomes intensified through some challenge or threat to the ego, it brings up intense negativity such as anger, acute fear, aggression, depression, and so on…The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come.  Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious, and a conscious person more intensely conscious.  You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep.”

Eckhart’s message is meant to awaken us to the fact that it is essential for us to bring more consciousness into our lives and to grow in our awareness and presence; essentially to be more Mindful.  This generates an energy field within us that creates a high vibrational frequency.  He tells us that when every cell of our body is so present that it feels vibrant with life, and when we can feel that life in every moment as the pure joy of Being, then it can be said that we are resonating in a state of Mindfulness. Conscious Connected Breathing also known as Rebirthing in addition to meditation accelerates this process.

These practices can be helpful tools on your journey to a more Mindful state of being.  So, prepare yourself to slow down and learn to relax and experience the true meaning of rest. Take a few deep breaths and find a comfortable place to just be for a little while as you consider where you want to go with your life and what transformation may be required to allow you to be more fully present in the now on your personal spiritual path to enlightenment.  Let’s continue by considering the practice of refraining

The Practice Of Refraining

“To live mindfully means to be able to breathe in the here and now, and to look deeply into our feelings and our perceptions.”  Thick Nhat Hanh from Releasing Grief and Fear:  Touching No Birth and No Death (a talk given at the San Diego Civic Center, September 14, 2002)

When Buddhist teacher and psychologist Jack Kornfield was departing Thailand many years ago after an intense learning experience with his teacher Ajahn Chah, Master Chah encouraged his student to return to the states and “teach people the practices of compassion and loving kindness so that they discover it; that it’s possible for them.  Teach people the practices of letting go of fear and confusion and grasping and anger so
that their hearts can be free”

How do you quiet the mind?  How do you open the heart?  How do you release the small sense of self, that’s referred to as the “body of fear” or the “pain body?”  How do you let go of the confusions that we get lost in throughout our day, and come to a place of trust and release that has wisdom, that’s not foolish, that can see clearly and that meets the world with respect and courage rather than with confusion or fear?

Jack Kornfield learned that the direct practices of quieting the mind and opening the heart through Mindful attention, of the cultivation of compassion and loving kindness and of steadying oneself though the practice of refraining in the midst of the ways of the world, are useful to everybody.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). This Scripture is asking us to stop what we’re doing and be in a place of non-activity; that to sense, feel and know the presence and power of God where we are, we have to be still and to refrain from activities that divert our focus from what’s truly important and significant.  There are times that we can get so distracted by the mundane activities of life that we lose our sense of oneness and connectedness to our source.

Have you noticed those times when a tiny negative thought crosses your mind; like a magnet, and starts to attract other frustrations and irritations?  Picking up speed, your mind becomes a whirlwind of chaos and ascends to a crescendo of fear, fury or depression.  Anxiety and physical complaints jump on board for the quick ride to unhappiness and hopelessness.  Your ego begins to play the victim, groveling in misery.  Fortunately, there is a way to stop this emotional churning.

The antidote comes in the form of the reminder to, “Let go, let God,” which is immediate and calming.  In changing your perception you release the problem and surrender all attempts to control the external world.  Turning within you notice that God or Universal Intelligence or the Divine Creative Source has the answer and is available to guide and comfort you.  Returning to peace, you relax and remember that there is a divine order in the universe.

Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron teaches that, “Refraining is very much the method of becoming a Dharmic person.  It’s the quality of not grabbing for entertainment the minute we feel a slight edge of boredom coming on.  It’s the practice of not immediately filling up space just because there’s a gap.”

She suggests, “An interesting practice that combines mindfulness and refraining is just to notice your physical movements when you feel uncomfortable.  When we feel like we’re losing ground, we make all kinds of little jumpy, jittery movements.  You might notice that when you feel uncomfortable you do things like pull your ear, scratch something even though it doesn’t itch, or straighten your collar.  When you notice what you do, don’t try to change it.  Don’t criticize yourself for whatever it is you’re doing.  Just notice what it is.

Refraining – not habitually acting out impulsively – has something to do with giving up the entertainment mentality.  Through refraining, we see that there’s something between the arising of the craving – or the aggression or the loneliness or whatever it might be – and whatever action we take as a result.  There’s something there in us that we don’t want to experience, and we never do experience, because we’re so quick to act.  The practice of refraining is a w ay to get in touch with basic groundlessness – by noticing how we try to avoid it.”
Pema Chodron from Comfortable with Uncertainty:  108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion (Shambhala Publications, 2002)

A thousand different scientific studies have been done in the last ten or twenty years showing the effectiveness of training our attention.  Now neuroscientists recognize that the neuro-plasticity of our brain lasts until the very end of life; that it’s never too late to train the mind and change yourself; that where you put your attention actually changes your nervous system in measurable ways, so that if you practice anger, after a while those neural pathways get reinforced.  If you practice equanimity or love or compassion, those neurological pathways become transformed in a measurable way. Jon Kabat-Zinn pioneered trainings in the west on Mindfulness-based stress reduction and Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

There are many beautiful practices for embodying inner well being in your life.  For instance the practice of wise speech is about speaking words that are true and useful, that are timely, that are to the benefit of everyone concerned.  Incorporating the practice of refraining is the training that when you’re either in conflict or in a situation where there could be problems or harm in what you’re saying, you know to take a deep breath, quiet yourself, and get in touch with or listen for your deepest intention.  The intention behind the words is more important even than the words that are said.  You allow yourself to suspend what you might have blurted out and hold it up in your mind to discern what your intention is behind the thought and to ask if the expression of it is: 1. Good for you 2.  Good for the recipient, and 3. Will it hurt anyone?

You might take a breath and then discern:  “Well, my highest intention is that we go forward and stay friends, or stay connected, or continue our relationship with respect” and therefore the points you want to make become transformed, and you say what you have to say, but it’s out of respect.  You’re listening, and your words show compassion and care.

Another aspect that is within the practice of refraining is that of letting go, knowing when to refrain and when to let go.  This is the teaching about not grasping and holding on and trying to control people.

You will notice the distinction between refraining and the actions of oppressing, suppressing and repressing that lead to very different outcomes.   Oppression is when you control another by holding him back or putting him down.  Suppression is when your conscious mind decides to not deal with something and pushes it aside.  Repression is when your unconscious mind makes a decision not to deal with something and not to allow it to even intrude upon your consciousness.  All three of these dynamics tend to lead to the feeling of depression because they are the opposite of expression.  And the byproducts of this are harbored resentments, loss of energy and vitality and a lack of joy.  Whereas with the practice of refraining one learns to suspend a thought or action long enough to set up the process of Mindful discernment in which you present yourself with the opportunity to decide what is the best course of action to take next.  The evolution of this process takes you from 1.  Refraining, to 2.  Suspending, to 3. Discerning, to 4. Deciding, to 5.  Taking Skillful Action.  Now let’s take up the practice of patience.

The Practice Of Patience

What is your relationship with patience?  Are you a patient person?

Patience is one of the cornerstones of Mindfulness Practice.  When we practice patience, we allow grace to flow into our lives; we open up to something bigger than ourselves.  And it is only through grace that Universal Intelligence can provide us with miraculous outcomes much greater than we may have requested or even envisioned.

Most people are in a big hurry today.  We’re over-busy and lack enough time to get our tasks done let alone to be able to rest, relax and recreate.  We find it difficult to just wait and to allow things to come to us or to unfold in their own time.  We’re in such a rush to see the bloom that we’ll risk breaking the pedals off the bud to get it to unfold for us in this moment rather than in the unfolding of its perfect time.  Dr. Ed Hallowell wrote a whole book about this phenomenon called Crazy Busy.  Ask yourself, “Where do I find myself being impatient?  Is it when I’m trying to get to an appointment and find myself stalled in congested traffic?  What causes me to become impatient with myself or with others?  Can I wait comfortably for my meal when the restaurant is crowded and my waiter is tending to many other patrons as well?

Things can only come to us when we are ready.  In the process of our expansion and attraction, there are some vital stages that cannot be skipped – they are nurturing, deepening, aligning and yes, waiting.  And all of these mean cultivating patience.

In practicing patience to its fullest, we also have to learn to identify our dreams and aspirations.  This process entails finding out what we want and then holding that truth deep within our hearts, allowing it to guide us from within so that we respond to each present moment authentically and in alignment with our hearts desire.  In cultivating our dreams we nurture them into existence allowing them to develop in their own time.

The secret is to stay focused on the now and not worry about the future, because the future, in fact, is just a series of incremental “nows.”  A helpful Mindfulness meditation practice is to sit comfortably and place both hands palms open, facing up, resting on your thighs and just feel the breath as you inhale and exhale. Observe your mind by silently saying the word “thinking” every time a thought passes by and then bring your attention back to your breath and the space between your thoughts. As you center yourself you might begin to connect with some deeper spiritual truths and you can contemplate some questions.  What are you really feeling about your current situation?  What do you love and what no longer rings true?  What’s missing and how can you become fulfilled?  And most importantly, what is your next frontier of growth?  What do you need to experience in your next cycle of evolution?  Once you have a clear sense of your goal, nurture it by holding it deep in your heart and focusing on what you can do in the “now” each day to move toward it.

When we can attune ourselves to the voice of our higher power or expanded consciousness, we develop faith, which is comprised of courage, determination and trust.  We learn to pace ourselves and discover the art of divine timing.  It can be quite helpful when you are feeling impatient in the moment to take some deep breaths and utilize the Mindfulness Meditation mantra on the inhale, I am patient, and on the exhale, I can wait.  Performing this meditation for a few minutes can have the effect of making the wait seem shorter and less irritating, perhaps even pleasant.

To strengthen your inner connection to faith you start by developing a robust relationship with your higher power.  This means communicating with it as if it’s your best friend – which in fact it is! – An awareness or presence that is constantly with you everywhere, in every situation.

The next step to reaching for your dream is to align with who you need to become to achieve it.  If we don’t prepare ourselves for success it can very easily make us uncomfortable and we will sabotage it to return to our small, familiar selves.

How can you constructively spend your time waiting for your vision to manifest?  What beliefs do you have that might prevent you from being able to hold and enjoy the experience?  You can start to dissolve them by tracing them back to their source, to the first time you ever took them on.  Take a soul-level look at the time and ask yourself, what were the lessons and gifts in that situation?  Which of your strengths was it meant to develop and how would you deal with it differently now?  And what will it take for you to become more aligned with your imminent success?

An essential quality of the practice of patience is gratitude.  While you’re waiting for your desired outcome, focus on the gifts of life that you currently enjoy.  If you don’t have riches, do you have health?  If you don’t have a relationship with a partner, do you have family?  If you don’t have peace or fulfillment, do you have hope?  This not only helps you feel less incomplete but it also prepares you to hold on to your dreams when they materialize.

In practicing the art of gratitude, you will develop a much greater capacity to appreciate your dreams when they come true.  In waiting we allow a greater truth to emerge from within us. If we stay Mindful and cultivate patience, we begin to see the bigger picture of our desires, we hear our inner voice telling us a deeper truth and we experience life more keenly.  Waiting deepens and enriches us.  You might consider that you’re living the unfolding of God’s perfect plan for you.

The Practice Of Stillness

This is the fourth in a series of six Practicums on the theme of Mindfulness. In January we worked with the practice of non-resistance, in March we explored refraining followed by the practice of patience in May and in this Practicum we will delve into the practice of stillness. It is truly one of the cornerstones to the foundation under which Mindfulness rests.

Why stillness is crucial to mastering the path of Mindfulness is that only until you are able to quiet the noise of your ego-thinking-mind will you be prepared to hear the still quiet voice of your intuitive soul. You might also consider it to be your true inner knowing that speaks through the voice of your enlightened-natural-self.  Through this preparation you will be able to incorporate one of the most important of the six practices.

Eckhart Tolle, in his book Stillness Speaks, states that, “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself.  When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.  Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness.  This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form.”

By letting go into stillness you have permission to slow down and give your nervous system a rest.  When you allow yourself to surrender to this extraordinary state of calmness you create the precious opportunity to de-stress yourself and return to balance.

When we enter the dimension of stillness we touch the deeper sense of awareness that allows us to truly know.   In Discourse 40 from Paramahansa Yogananda’s extraordinary two volume darshans on The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, he states, “When bodily motions cease and thoughts become quiet, God begins to appear as the blessedness of stillness and divine bliss on the altar of peace and changelessness.”

On the back cover of Tolle’s book he states, “Stillness is also inner peace, and that stillness and peace is the essence of your being.  It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.”  In The Power of Now, Eckhart encourages us to, “Pay more attention to the silence than to the sounds.  Paying attention to outer silence creates inner silence:  the mind becomes still.  A portal is opening up.  Every sound is born out of silence, dies back into silence, and during its life span is surrounded by silence…You cannot pay attention to silence without simultaneously becoming still within.  Silence without, stillness within.  You have entered the Unmanifested.”

One way to approach silence as a spiritual practice is to remain in a listening mode during your silent time.  The still, small voice within might not arise in the form of words – it may come in an idea you had never thought of before, or in the image of something or someone.  It may not even come to you during the silence but perhaps afterwards and when you least expect it.  One of the most powerful spiritual practices you can adopt may also be one of the easiest to do after you have mastered it.

Allow yourself today to sink deeply into the stillness that makes it possible for you to completely surrender to what ever you may encounter on your way to ultimately becoming the bliss of Samadhi.  Gandhi said,  “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  It begins with you.

How to practice an hour of daily silence:  Endeavor to schedule your hour of silence at a particular time every day.  Work up to an hour in increments of 10 minutes.  During that hour, turn off the phone, TV, radio, computer, and all other appliances and communication devices.  Set aside all books and other reading material.  Light a candle to be a witness to your hour of silence.  Burn some incense if you wish.  Sit quietly and rest in meditation – follow your breath, gaze attentively at a natural object like a candle flame or a flower – or engage in work that does not require you to hear, see, or express words.  Effortless housekeeping or gardening are excellent activities of silence, or a long walk in nature.  Listen to the silence, all the time enjoying this hour-long respite from thinking, reviewing, planning and imagining.  Just stay in the present moment.  Breathe deeply and mindfully, bringing in the silence, expelling mental noise.  At the end of your hour of silence, let your first word be an expression of gratitude or love, then put out the candle and go about your business.

The Practice Of Solitude

What happens when one enters stillness and is silent for a long period of time?  The outer noise goes first, and then the inner noise starts to evaporate.  Soon, quiet reigns everywhere, it seems.  Time slows to a crawl.  Sound becomes a curiosity  — natural sounds, especially, like the flow of water or the rustle and sway of tall grass, become occasions for deeper listening and lead to a most profound inner calm.

In such moments as these, we sense the presence of something deep and true.  We enter into our own fullness.  Somehow the worry and burdens of life drop away.  We are summoned to be more truly alive.  It is the call to spiritual solitude, the call to be intimately with oneself, to simply be.

Solitude summons us to personal reflection and introspective healing.  It calls to us as a sacred time of rejuvenation in which balance and wholeness are nurtured.  Quiet, contemplative time alone fosters in us an opportunity for expanded awareness of our true essence.  In this spaciousness of inward reflection we pause from recounting our story over and over and discover the freedom to live fully in the now, in the space of the present moment.

Solitude offers an opportunity to explore the sense of loneliness and alienation that so many feel and to realize that being alone need not doom you to the negative side of aloneness. There are two sides to aloneness.  One is lonely.  That’s when you feel a victim of being alone.  The other is solitude.  That arrives when you have mastered the antidote to aloneness by sitting in your loneliness and learning from it.  You have to be brave and face your fears.  Most of the time loneliness comes not so much from the act of just being alone but more from your not feeling safe and comfortable to just be alone with yourself.  The truth is that if you can’t be comfortably with yourself then you’ll find it hard, if not excruciating, to be intimately with another especially if you believe the other is better than you.  This usually leads to isolation and estrangement.  The answer is that you have to be alone with yourself until you break through the resistance to getting who you really are and are willing to drop the attachment to your mythology that entices you to feel less than.

It seems that we’ve become a society that values activity over action, distraction over focused attention, distance over presence and denial over conscious awareness.  The widespread symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADD/ADHD may be symptoms of a culture that doesn’t allow itself the time to be quiet and to rest.  Feeling the need to be constantly busy is an easy distraction from the task of turning inward and dealing with what’s truly going on inside.  Activity isn’t necessarily wrong, but many of us are out of balance and the need to be active arises more out of a defense against what might surface during a period of silence and stillness.

Solitude can open a doorway in us to awakening, guiding us to an awareness of our own true nature and offering us a way to connect profoundly with our own true being.  Marsha Sinetar in her book, Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics, states, “Spiritual solitude is a deep call or summons to turn our attention toward God.  This summons is often a hallmark of wholeness.  It is a hallmark of wholeness in the sense that the person who is growing spiritually whole in a maturing way makes a radical turn toward something true within.”

She goes on to say, “Something in our soul moves us to lean into God from our deepest, hidden springs of being.  There is a subtle, awakened state that involves the soul’s unending communion with God.  To hear that summons and to attend to it, one needs a bit of time alone, but this is not the same as isolation.  What I’m talking about with regard to wholesome solitude is not about form.  We don’t approach our solitude in any kind of formulaic way.  It’s not a drama; it’s not isolation.  It’s really a full recovery of our humanity.”

In Sinetar’s research and observations she discovered that people who take time out from their busy lives to be alone tend to be self-governing.  They have a tendency to look within for their guiding values, the rules by which to live.  Those that heed the call to solitude are true contemplatives and tend to embrace a state of Christ-like or God consciousness.  That consciousness doesn’t develop by being too much in the world.  We’re in the world, but we’re not of it as Jesus proclaimed.  We’re no longer struggling to find God.  At this advanced spiritual juncture we are feeling deeply connected and are turning within and listening.  We are growing into what we are meant to be and expressing more of what we already are.

So when one turns away from the world of material distractions and diversions and turns within to contact the inmost purity that beckons, “Follow Me,” as in the story of Jesus who says, “Leave everything and follow Me” you enter a spiritually maturing process in which you turn to your higher self for guidance.  Sinetar states, “When we are summoned to a spiritually maturing solitude and answer that call in wholesome ways, we are led into a larger life.  We expand into our spiritual wholeness” We’re now ready to turn our attention to the practice of discernment.

The Practice Of Discernment

The other day I was reviewing my notes from The Heart of Meditation Retreat I attended eight years ago.  It was facilitated by a married couple that are devotees of the deceased spiritual Master, Osho (aka Bhagwan Shree Ragneesh).  During an evening Darshan (enlightened lecture) we watched a video of one of Osho’s discourses.  It commenced with one of his followers speaking to him about her frustration with her process.  She said,  “Beloved Osho…there is a confusion in me that keeps coming again and again.  The message I have gotten from you more and more is to relax with myself, to watch and wait, but I also feel this urgency to wake up now; and then another part screams, ‘BUT HOW?’  What do I need to do? Do I need to push myself through this wall?  Could you make this clear to me?”

I was struck by the simple and yet poignant plea of this Chela (devoted student) and it echoes the expressed sense of urgency that I experience from so many in search of personal enlightenment.  That is why I was moved to offer the series of Mindfulness Practicums.  I wanted to offer some practices that underlie the Mindfulness concepts that are espoused by enlightened teachers like Osho, Eckhert Tolle, Pema Chodron, Ram Das and others.

Osho’s response to this woman was clear and concise.  He said,  “The mind is confusion; it is not that you are in confusion.  And there is no way for the mind to be not in confusion.  Mind’s whole structure is based on confusion.  Mind is duality; it is always split.  There is no single point on which the mind agrees in totality.  Half of the mind will agree and half of the mind will disagree, and whatever you choose you are choosing only the half.  The remaining half is going to take revenge.  The unchosen part, the left over, will wait for its chance to show you that whatever you have chosen is wrong.  But it does not matter which part you choose.  Choice itself is wrong.”

Osho went on to explain, “So the first thing to be understood is that there is no mind which has ever been without confusion.  Have you ever considered that peace of mind has never existed?  Peace of mind is intrinsically impossible.  Peace happens only when mind is not.  It is not peace of mind; it is peace beyond mind.”  He offered an illustration, “It is almost like a lotus flower:  it grows in mud and water; it is a miracle of nature that out of dirty mud and water it brings out one of the most beautiful flowers in existence.  But mud and water are not the lotus flower.  The lotus flower blossoms only when the lotus plant has gone beyond the mud, beyond the water, has transcended both – then it opens up to the sun, to the sky, and releases its fragrance to the wind.  Although it comes from the mud, it is not mud anymore.”

He went on to say,  “The same is true about peace.  Mind is muddy; all kinds of relevant and irrelevant thoughts are jumbled there.  It is a crowd, with so many fragments fighting with each other that you can call it a battleground.  Mind cannot be at peace.  But you can go beyond mind because you are not the mind.  You can transcend and become a lotus flower.  And then there is peace, there is beauty, there is bliss, and all that you have always dreamt about but have had no experience of.”

Osho’s message to this student and to all those that followed his teachings was to relax, watch and wait.  He said,  “The message remains the same, because that is the only way to transcend the mind.  The watcher is always above the mind.  The watcher is never part of the mind.  The mind is just like a TV screen on which thoughts, dreams, imaginations, projections, desires, and a thousand and one things go on passing.  The watcher is not on the screen; he is sitting in the movie hall.  But the problem arises when the watcher becomes identified with something on the movie screen.”

In order to not become triggered by what one identifies with, it requires the ability to refrain long enough to make a discerning choice about the most appropriate response to the stimulus.  In the first Practicum we worked with the practice of non-Resistance.  In the second Practicum we explored the practice of refraining and in our third meeting we surrendered into the practice of patience followed by stillness.  During our fifth Practicum we worked with the practice of solitude.   And now we are taking up the topic of discernment.

It is important to comprehend the distinction between judgment as in condemnation and judgment as in discernment.  We can discern something about someone that is based on our perceptions of the individual.   It’s plausible that our perceptions are quite factual or agreed upon by others.  This process, when performed with an open heart, allows one to understand something and understanding is the bridge to compassion.  The key to discernment is the union of the head, the logical part of us, with the heart, the feeling part of us.

It’s when we have an opinion about what we’re observing and categorize it as good or bad that we’ve entered the painful territory of the judgmental mind.  It is possible to discern that we have a preference for people who believe as we do without judging those who don’t.  When we release the judgment habit, we don’t discontinue having preferences, we just let go of the tendency to apply negative labels to the things we don’t prefer.

When we judge something or someone we close off our capacity to learn.  When we use wise discernment we are open to learn and to grow.  When we judge people we feel smarter, more powerful and superior to the one’s we’re judging.  To the egoic mind, judging creates an illusion of security.  However, each judgment we make affirms any number of secret fears that we hold such as:  I am weak and at risk; people are out to get me; my world is not safe and I have no faith that it will ever get better; I’m not good enough, etc.

It seems to me that the habit of judging is not only socially acceptable these days; it’s encouraged in many ways.  It appears that our culture has become addicted to judging.  Have you noticed that judging has become the essence of reality television?  With all the judgment reinforcement we receive from our culture, it can be a challenge to reverse the judgment habit and replace it with loving discernment.

Judgments are a way of disavowing our connection with Universal Intelligence and Divine Creativity.  If we are Mindful that Spirit is Perfect Oneness and that we are all part of the One Mind, the absurdity of judging becomes even clearer.   When we judge, we separate ourselves from the oneness that unites all of us and we are cast adrift, alone and on our own.

If we set a strong intention to replace the habit of judging with compassion and forgiveness we return to the place where we can see divine order everywhere.  Align your heart with your head and trade the need to be right for the desire to understand.  Surrender the need to have an opinion in favor of being divinely guided.  That is the practice of discernment.

Mindfulness Intentions

  1. If you don’t like where you are now, know that it’s a place you are just meant to pass through.  If you’re going through hell, keeping moving.
  1. Give thanks.  Light expands with gratitude.  Every time we express gratitude, we will draw metaphysical power into all situations and shed light on Spirit’s perfect plan for you – which, without your Mindful awareness, remains in the dark.
  1. Light is magnetic.  It pulls things out of the darkness and toward itself.  Give the light your hurtful memories and any victim-hood weighing you down.  As these are lifted from your thought bank and dissolve, you’ll feel a new sense of freedom springing up inside.  You will have released mental bondage and cleared a space in your mind for new thinking.  Be Mindful of the good that will grow out of your positive thinking.
  1. Your expanding consciousness of light will not only help you get real about where you need encouragement, but will reveal who needs support from you.  Ask yourself:  “What truth do I tell myself about how I feel?  What wisdom have I revealed in doing so?  To whom can I offer encouragement?”  The Talmud Baba Batra states:  “One who gives a coin to a poor person is rewarded with six blessings, but one who encourages that person with words is rewarded with seven blessings.”
  1. Whom do you need to forgive?  Who simply didn’t know how to do things better?  When Nelson Mandela was asked how he forgave the jailers who held him prisoner on Robben Island for twenty-seven years, he said:  “When I walked out of the gate, I knew that if I continued to hate these people I’d still be in prison.”
  1. Self-care honors the self and sparks illumination.  How are you holding yourself in right regard?  Are you resting enough, laughing enough, smiling at yourself and taking opportunities to shed tears?  When we give ourselves the gift of care we can then and only then serve Spirit’s plan for us.
  1. Observe your steps daily.  Ask:  “Do I call upon Spirit every step of the way?  Do I affirm the presence of Universal Intelligence with each step that I take?  Do I navigate Mindfully?  Is every word I speak spoken with consideration of others?  When I’m eating, do I bless my meal with the thought, “Everything I take into my body turns to health and beauty.”  When we call upon The Light as we go, we will not stumble and are empowered to see beyond blame, fault and fear.  A Yoga master shared this healing wisdom:  “Great beings are not blind to people’s shortcomings, but they’re not overly burdened by them either.  Their vision doesn’t stop where the skin begins and ends.  They look beyond everything.  They devote their lives to bringing out the simple basic goodness and purity in each human being.  They see the great Light in everyone always.”
  1. Give yourself the gift of intentionality affirming that it is Spirit’s light that magnifies the greatest possibilities.  As you do, you will function from faith and act from Mindful consciousness.  You are Spirit’s energy outlet, sourced in Divine protection, provision and power.  Know that this truth is within you and as Science of Mind teacher Ernest Holmes said, “is always triumphant.”

More Mindfulness Practice Reminders

  • Practice non-resistance.  Go with the flow.  Avoid forcing issues.  “Let” is a very powerful word.  Let go and let it flow.
  • Practice spaciousness.  Allow for more space in your life. Well-placed space is the antidote to distance.  Spaciousness welcomes graciousness.  Think of inviting grace to fill the space.  Ask yourself, “Can I be present to the space in this moment?”
  • Practice presence.  Mindfulness has to do with where you place your attention.  Observe what you focus on.  What you fill your mind with determines the amplitude of your presence in the world.  Thought is creative.  Change your thinking; change your life.  Remember, you will feel this way until you change your mind.
  • Practice Kindness.  Acts of kindness can go a long way in creating greater comfort for you and others.
  • Practice composure.  Maintaining a serene nervous system is good for what ails you.  You have a right to an undisturbed nervous system.  You may have concerns, but worrying about them won’t make matters better.
  • Practice breathing consciousness and energy revitalization.  Make the time to lie down and run energy through your system as you breathe in a conscious connected rhythm.  During the day take some deep breaths and occasionally take 20 connected breaths.
  • Practice stillness and seek periods of solitude and silence.  The practice of meditation does wonders for teaching you how to quiet your mind and balance your nervous system.  Take periodic retreats from the hustle and bustle of the world into the serenity of a peaceful environment.
  • Practice body awareness.  Get in touch with your body, becoming aware of what is going on within.  Pay attention to your symptoms.  Early detection and treatment can make a significant difference.  Lie down and mentally scan your body from head to toe allowing your intuitive awareness to inform you of anything that you need to be aware of and allow yourself to relax and de-stress.
  • Practice purification through earth, air, water and fire.  Be mindful of what, when and how you eat.  Take baths, swim or soak in a hot tub relaxing in the soothing water.  Sit by the fire and let it pull the pain out of your energy body.   Take walks in nature and walk through the grass or on the sand barefoot.  And, BREATHE.
  • Practice the management of your expectations.  It’s often helpful to lower your expectations of others while maintaining your standards.  Change what you can, accept what you can’t change and endeavor to discern the distinction.  Know where you’re going and who’s going with you.  Avoid reversing those.
  • Practice the power of now.  Avoid the temptation to dwell on remorse from the past or dread of the future.  Remain centered in the present.  There is little you can do to change the past. Your influence over the future can only be affected as a result of the power you direct in transforming your present condition or circumstances.
  • Practice truth, love and simplicity.  This is the basic curriculum to be mastered here on planet earth.

The Practice Of Rebirthing

  • A safe and dynamic breathing process for healing any damage done to the breathing mechanism during or after birth
  • Connecting the inhale to the exhale in a relaxed continuous rhythm
  • Simple breathing lessons restore full power of the breath to revitalize and energize body, mind and spirit
  • Release restrictions in breathing and resistance held throughout the body due to past traumas
  • Learn to breathe energy as well as air
  • Clean and balance the energy body
  • Secret to deep relaxation and ability to release tension and restore equanimity
  • Transform negatively held beliefs and core laws into positively charged affirmations

For over 35 years, Dr. Stephen Johnson has been bringing out the best in people.  In 1974, while a Doctoral Fellow in Rehabilitation Psychology at the University of Southern California, Stephen published his research on the Benefits of Yoga Therapy on Self-Concept, Conflict Resolution and Emotional Adjustment.  He went on to study a post-doctoral curriculum for four years at the National Academy of Metaphysics and was one of a group of individuals assisting Leonard Orr during his pioneering work with the powerful breathing process called Rebirthing.  This became the foundation for the blending of spirituality and psychology that has been at the heart of Stephen’s personal evolvement and his professional practice as a psychotherapist and educator.

In 1976 he co-founded The Center for Holistic Psychology in Beverly Hills.   The early 1980’s saw the creation of Blueprint For Life Seminars for men and women and in 1984 he co-founded the H.E.A.R.T.S.WORK retreats also for men and women.   In 1987 he was inspired to direct his attention to men’s work and created the Sacred Path Men’s Retreat and founded the Men’s Center of Los Angeles in 1988.   For the past 25 years he has focused his work largely on men and their relationships. These Practicums were conceived to provide an opportunity to participate in a life enhancing experience with Stephen and his staff.  As one who is committed to living a conscious life, we trust that you will benefit from this offering on the Spiritual Psychology of Mindfulness.