Seeing More Clearly
“If you let cloudy water settle, it will become clear. If you let your upset mind settle, your course will also become clear.”
— From Buddha’s Little Instruction Book
(Kornfield: Bantum Books, 1994)
The word “Mindfulness” comes from the Pali word “Vipassana,” which, if translated directly into English, means “to see clearly.” Accordingly, the practice of Mindfulness consists of cultivating the ability to see our experience more clearly. As we develop Mindfulness, we become aware of our patterns of reaction, which are otherwise unconscious or automatic. Instead of getting caught in these automatic patterns of reacting, from this place of clear seeing, we can make choices that are more effective – that serve us better. By reducing our tendency to get caught in the automatic reactions of pushing away what we don’t want or holding onto what we do want (in other words: wanting things to be different), and instead seeing what is true and responding to that, we can minimize the stress and maximize the well-being in our lives. This is the possibility that developing greater awareness provides us.
Applying an analogy may help to understand this dynamic better. Imagine that your mind is like a pond full of water. If you stir up the water in a pond, it becomes muddy, cloudy and opaque; likewise, your constantly agitated mind becomes busy and murky. However, if you stop stirring up the water in the pond and let it sit idle, the sediment will sink to the bottom, leaving the water clear. Through this clear water, you can begin to see what is actually in the pond: rocks, fish, plants, etc. In the same way, if you sit for a period without agitating your mind, your thoughts will settle down, allowing you to see more clearly what your experience truly is. You will have the opportunity to notice what is underneath all of the busyness of your life so that you can respond to it more effectively.
In order to make positive changes in your life towards improved well-being, you first need to recognize what is keeping you stuck where you are; then you can make new, constructive choices. Taking time each day to practice Mindfulness, cultivating awareness of the present moment, is a process that can take you in this direction. At risk of quoting Dr. Phil, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”