Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve just BEEN BLINDSIDED? Well, that’s what living life on automatic usually does for you, doesn’t it? You know, “doing everything on the run.” Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Millions of others do the same! But have you really thought about what stops you from finding a better way?
For starters, it could be that ignorance is the case; however, it certainly isn’t blissful when it costs you what matters the most. Many of us have seen others get promotions, especially people who have continued their education and taken the time to find out what else they need to boost their careers. Second, ignoring your health instead of staying fit makes for good conversations in the hospital or recuperating at home, doesn’t it? Not paying attention to your family while keeping your eye on the ball at work six and seven days a week might also be the reason for the empty home you live in now, right?
Of course, it might also be that YOU JUST DON’T HAVE THE TIME. Yeah, we’ve all heard that one…until work gives you the opportunity to travel or do something else equally exciting, and then you have all the time in the world, don’t you? That’s just a small indicator of your real power because the truth is you choose how you use your time. So it’s no secret that you tend to pursue what you prize the most, even when some of those priorities may be destructively set by your subconscious mind, remaining largely unknown to you.
Last, it could be that the solution you’re offered to a better life sounds JUST TOO FAR OUT OF THE NORM for you to consider, right? I mean, after all, what would other people, especially your family and friends, think of you if you tried it? Of course, it might even be surprising that some of the most successful people you know or admire do it, something you don’t find out until after they die! Such a practice might even have been the reason why they were so well liked and successful.
Looking at some of the major causes for why you fail to find a better way to avoid the problems you experience in daily living is a little hard to accept, isn’t it? But don’t worry, it’s easy to go on pleading ignorance, saying you don’t have the time, or the resolution is just too far out in fairy land for you to try. Or, maybe not, especially if you’ve had all you can take. The key, although challenging, might be interesting and delightfully different than what you expect; even practical and rewarding from the get go!
Finding a way out of the mess into which you’ve gotten yourself means taking a look at what the successful people do that you’ve observed. And I’m not talking about the ones who just do it at work, but those who really have a balanced life between their occupation, family, and personal endeavors. Characteristically, people seem to be drawn to them, they’re not difficult to be with, they listen, they seem to inspire the best in others, they have time for family and friends, and their decisions always seem to make good sense. They’re the kind of people you want to be with during an emergency. They don’t have to be negative or use force to get what is necessary carried out. Perhaps, you’d even like to take a closer look at what helps them to be someone you’d like to emulate.
First, they don’t seem to jump into a decision. Even in emergencies, if you could observe them carefully, you’d see that they still take a moment to go inside themselves. And that’s the point. They’re intimately familiar with what’s in there. Becoming aware of their emotions, thoughts, and feelings before they choose an appropriate action is something they seem to do almost automatically. For example, I saw this quality in Edwin Wockenfuss, one of the best leaders for whom I’ve had the opportunity to work. The decisions he had to make went from the very mundane to those of life and death. People would follow him anywhere.
So what would he or others like him do once they had taken a moment to check themselves? They would attempt to maintain or reestablish a level of equanimity appropriate to the situation they were facing. Balance was essential to themselves and others around them. To the naked eye, they were firmly in control of the element of life they were facing, whether it was routine or otherwise.
Moreover, especially when a problem was difficult or serious, taking time to contemplate the situation and the appropriate action would be commonplace among these people. They would often withdraw to their offices, take a walk, or sleep on it. When they came back with a decision, it was clear and very capably carried out by the decision maker and his or her people.
Certainly, the examples I’ve given are of exemplary leaders reflecting on their feelings, emotions, and thoughts, assuring a functional level of equanimity, contemplating to see their way to an appropriate action, and carrying it out with the help of their people. But this could also be observed in what they did with their families and personal lives. Applying their actions to yourself in the parts of life most important to you would be quite suitable. And that’s the sticky point, isn’t it? While some people seem to be naturals, others have to learn and mold themselves to these behaviors over time.
Thus, it becomes a question of finding the training you need to acquire these talents. So where do you go, where do you begin to look? Do you find these abilities taught at our universities? No, not usually. The answer is that you customarily have to look for such instruction outside of traditional institutions of learning. Expecting their professors to teach you how to gain any competency in the skill of mindfulness for daily life may be well beyond what they instruct.
Instead, you should look for this training in non-traditional places. For example, internet is a good place to start. This source gives you the locations of numerous groups that generally meet in local cities and towns. Just go to google and type in “Inquiring Mind,” and you’ll find all kinds of groups and contacts. (And don’t be afraid of the word meditation, for mindfulness is one of its techniques.) These people will be quite helpful in getting you in contact with teachers, materials, and other people practicing mindfulness.
Sitting down with the leader of a small group is certainly a preferable way to start. That’s what I did with David Schulze, an economics professor who taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1975. After Dave guided me through a basic session, I knew that I’d found the beginning of something that would help me through the ups and downs of life, and more than 35 years later, I can certainly say that it has. Thus, if you find that a small guided session with a qualified teacher offers the slightest notion that mindfulness training would be helpful, then it’s certainly worthwhile to continue with the local group. Later on, if you’re experiencing more benefits, then participating in a retreat would be a viable option.
And I can’t begin to emphasize strongly enough, how important it is for you to learn to take mindfulness training into daily life, letting it become the tool that is used to check your internal self, attain or maintain equanimity, contemplate an issue momentarily or at length, make a decision, and take appropriate action at work, with the family, or in personal pursuits.
What I’ve described in the above paragraphs is not a walk in the park. It’s a journey. As such, it contains all the ups and downs you find in life until your very last breath. You’ll appreciate the equanimity that carries you through difficulties and the clarity that contemplation offers in seeing your way to effective decisions. Getting to know the dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and emotions you experience as opportunities for learning and growth, you non-reactively observe them as your ever-growing level of concentration directs your laser-like attention into transforming them from liabilities into assets. And, finally, you’ll begin to describe ideas for conventional life that you and others like family, friends, and colleagues can clearly see and use for living successfully every day. There’s nothing like making a difference, is there?