The Most Difficult Thing in the World

As I build a meditation habit I am becoming more and more convinced that we have very little control over who we are and what we do.

Most of the time we are on auto-pilot driven by a brain that has become so conditioned by our habitual behaviour that it has become self directing. We simply keep running on our own little hamster wheel turning it over again and again without even knowing it’s there.

An important finding in Neurology is that the brain learns through experience, it wires itself. This ability is called plasticity and it is how our habits and habitual behaviour become hard wired in our brain.

We are all programmed at birth with human needs and desires, it’s how our species survive. We also live in a technical world driven by an ever increasing level of distraction. The choices we make are driven at a subconscious level by our desires and distractions and as a consequence they wire a brain that repeats and reinforces the same behaviour. Slowly and surely we construct our own small hamster wheel making it more and more rigid.

Is it any wonder that Jon Kabat Zinn believes;

one of the most difficult things in the world, if not the most difficult thing in the world for us human beings to do, is to be present in our own lives, and to be kind and less judgmental of ourselves. That’s why it’s worth doing. It’s worth practicing.

Mindfulness is the Art of being present in our own lives, it’s the quality of nonjudgmental awareness.

If we can accept that we have a brain that we have spent the entirety of our lives reinforcing into its present state, then we can be more compassionate and realistic about how difficult it is for us to change.

What is most encouraging is that the same ability of the brain to wire itself through experience allows us to rewire it through the self directed practice of mindfulness.

In so doing we can achieve what Jon Kabat Zinn  explains as:

Which means we have a lot more freedom to transform our organism, and our life experience, and attain some degree of profound well-being and satisfaction than what we ever thought.

What that means for me is, “the most difficult thing in the world” is well worth doing. Even if it means picking myself up and dusting myself down every time I fall off the wagon, which seems to happen a lot.

If only there was a safety belt to keep me mindful. But there isn’t!

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The Most Difficult Thing in the World

And what of the Soul?

Poulnabrone
Photo Credit: Jurgen Mangelsdorf via Compfight cc

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour

William Blake

Our Universe is 14 billion years old and within the visible part there are 140 billion galaxies. Our own little planet arrived on the scene 4.5 billion years ago and then about 4 billion years ago a miracle happened.

Life.

It has taken a long time, but for the last 100,000 years our own particular species has been wandering the Earth and at the last count there are over 7 billion of us alive.

Each of us starts our life journey when a single cell splits into two and by the time we are born we have reached 140 trillion cells. Remarkably, every single cell carries a complete blue print of exactly who and what we are.

Our experience of life comes through five senses which allow us to see the reds and golds of Autumn, to hear a little robin singing as night turns to dawn, to feel the caress of a cool summer breeze on our cheek, to taste chocolate and mint in a peppermint cream, and to smell the smoke and sweetness of a turf fire.

Our greatest gift is consciousness, our thoughts and thinking, and it is through our mind that we experience the world. Yet anyone who has watched their thoughts for more than a few minutes will know that they are fleeting and chaotic.

But it is our emotions that give our life color and intensity, and as I read the stories of my fellow bloggers I begin to understand quite how intense those emotions are; despair and grief, love and laughter.

10,000 years ago at the dawn of civilization our ancestors must have been very similar to us in their thoughts and their emotions and how they experienced the world. It is astonishing that the great works of philosophy and religion appeared around the world 3,000 years ago, long before the internet and WordPress.

And yet do we not still struggle with the same challenges and mysteries?

The same emotions that make us feel so alive can also leave us feeling powerless when suffering arrives. Our thoughts and feelings can become so overwhelming, and yet we bottle them up and feel isolated in a society that values silence and secrets.

If we consider the fragility of our mortality can we ever comprehend eternity?

How do we begin to understand where this complex and vibrant world came from?

Do we pause to think about the complexity of our bodies and the vastness of the Universe?

Is there a God? Did any of our religions get it right? Does it matter? Does it change anything?

And what of the soul?

Does it exist?

And if it does, then far more importantly, how do we nourish it?

And what of the Soul?