Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Black & White

Black & White

My main motivation throughout life was always a search for meaning; wanting to know the meaning of my experience. It’s what made me an avid reader, an ‘ex-pat’, and a life-long student. And of course I wanted to acquire specific skills and qualifications, but I’ve realized it is the process of getting them that counts, not the certificates and references that go with them. Which is why I am interested in mindfulness, and want to share my interest with others.


What I’ve discovered is that meaning arises in the present moment, from moment to moment. There is no ‘Meaning’ sitting out there, waiting to be attained. Meaning happens in the moment, and is appropriate to the moment – but of course you have to be here! That’s why the sages and enlightened ones talk about being in the Now. Because if the mind is busy all the time reliving the past, or trying to control the future, we miss the present – and the present is where it all happens. If we’re not here in the moment, everything we’re looking for is actually overlooked. We’re living in a dream, which has no solidity, no reality.

Cockroach enlightenment

Being in the moment doesn’t mean having to forget the past. In fact, the more presence there is, the more the past can inform our understanding, as I recently noticed. Enquiring with a friend, a memory was triggered of a spontaneous experience about 20 years ago, at a workshop. I had felt like a blob, unstructured and almost formless, all I could do was observe what was happening. My teacher at the time later sent me a copy of a cartoon. It showed two cockroaches, standing beside the nozzle of a garden hose with a drop of water falling from it. One cockroach was describing its experience to the other. “There I was in the darkness, when suddenly there was a great whoosh! and a burst of light. And then I found myself here.” The title of the cartoon was ‘Cockroach enlightenment’. At the time, I thought it was a very funny cartoon – but it wasn’t until my recent enquiry that I fully realized the meaning of it!


Meaning is not fixed and rigid, because the true nature of things is a constant unfolding, moment to moment. It’s not black and white, and it is not at all chaotic, because everything is part of a unified whole –that butterfly in Timbuktu really is connected to a volcanic eruption in Iceland! And we get to watch it all unfolding from our own individual vantage point, moment by moment. Miraculous, really.


What has this got to do with mindfulness, you ask? Firstly, for those moments when we succeed in actually being in the moment, we’re aligning ourselves with reality. It’s not that it is always fun or enjoyable, but the fact that it is real is inherently fulfilling. It’s because it’s our life that it has meaning.

This is of course not to say that planning and preparing, or reviewing and analysing, are not useful. These are necessary and essential parts of life too. My experience is that these activities too benefit from being in the moment. More focused attention becomes possible when you become aware of the internal pushing and pulling that often starts when anxiety or doubt raises its head. It takes some time for the inner critic – as I’ve explored in my previous couple of blogs – to get the message that he (or she) is out of a job. That’s what can happen when you take the time to look more closely at your experience, and enquire into how your life got to be the way it is. And how it can change.

Explore mindfulness. Info@chayes.nl

Kind hearts

Kind hearts

The discussion of the inner critic – see my blogs on Critiquing Criticism – often seems to have a reverse effect. Instead of relief at last, freedom from the difficult and often hurtful impact of criticism – or ‘faint praise’, which can be a cousin of criticism in disguise – it may appear to have become a constant companion. This is what I call the ‘purple BMW with pink spots’ syndrome: once you see one, you start seeing them everywhere! In other words, when you become more aware of some of the ways the superego is sabotaging your experience, it can seem that its attacks have increased, rather than simply been uncovered.

Love it to death

One of the best suggestions I’ve ever heard for how to beat the inner critic at its own game is to love it to death. After all, it meant well. It was a part of you that thought it was looking out for your wellbeing. It seemed like a good friend, trying to protect you – and others – from harm, or making mistakes. So if the holiday you sent it on seems very short, and it still doesn’t leave you in peace, turn around and look at it. Listen. See if there’s something to learn from it, perhaps an insight into false assumptions or beliefs you hadn’t realized you were holding on to. Love it for its good intentions. And then let it go. It’s the kindest thing you can do.

It’s difficult to talk of kindness or compassion, faced as we all are at the moment by continual anguishing news bulletins about disaster, hatred, war and thuggery. But if we have to start somewhere, then plain, everyday kindness to yourself seems like a good place. Kindness leaves no room for the inner critic, which in turn makes it so much easier to be more objective.

Hot & Cold

Objectivity is often seen as being cold, uncaring or uninterested. There is indeed coolness to it, which I think is more disinterested than uncaring. Objectivity requires being in the present moment, because old beliefs and fixed ideas tend to block freedom – freedom to be yourself, freedom of thinking, freedom of expression. Because the expression of truth allows freedom of choice.

With a little ordinary human kindness, there is always warmth. And where there is kindness, there may be objective analysis and recognition of mistakes, but there’s no harsh inner critic. Enquiry and meditation are great ways to explore the differences.

Try it!

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