This article is one of a series of regular columns for the Newcastle Weekly.
Mindfulness helps us understand what is really happening.
Mindfulness is much more than a bunch of tools to keep us calm. It is a foundational way of gaining understanding and meaning through careful observation of how life is.
The first of these foundations is impermanence. Everything changes all the time. Nothing stays the same. If there wasn’t change, we would die instantly.
The upside of this flux is that everything difficult will pass and that every moment is a new experience if we only pay attention.
A new experience is like a pulse of life. In Buddhism, it is called Dependent Arising. Simply because what is experienced is dependent on our past along with the conditions of the moment.
A good analogy is a fire. A fire’s sparks are dependently arising. Sparks pop at a particular moment due to the temperature in the air, the humidity, the dryness of the timber, the intensity of the heat, the breeze, and the gap between the logs.
It is the same for our experiences. They appear in a context. How can this help us to understand what is really happening in our life?
If we have had a lot of trauma early in our lives or if we are experiencing no work, the loss of a relationship, or poor living conditions, then the context is likely to give rise to sad, depressive experiences.
When there is a particular theme in your life that causes you pain – a failed relationship for instance – should you keep placing the ‘logs’ in a way that makes it likely that you will experience pain? Or do you disperse the logs so that it is harder for the pain to arise?
Dispersing the logs can be not seeking out associations with the misery or pain.
Don’t drive past the home of the person who causes you pain or indulge in memories of the good times with them. Don’t hang around those who want to talk about the painful experience all the time.
Instead, soothe the pain as the arising body sensation that it is. Take a morning walk, meditate, eat well, enjoy sleeping in, so that your context is less likely to give rise to more misery.
If this is how it works, we might wonder: who are we then? We are a being having experiences.
The experience in a time context gives us the sense of ‘me’ but there isn’t one! Science backs this up, there is no ‘me’ anywhere, just experiences that dependently arise. There is a system of experiencing.
So, there is not success or failure. Rather, life’s system is experiencing the delight of success, and the pain of failure. And those experiences will all pass as they are just dependently arising.
There is liberation in Dependent Arising as it is not ‘you’, it is a human experience that is arising.
Your responsibility lies not in what arises but in the factors within your control that affect what arises. That is a personal, and social responsibility.
Personal in relation to managing ourselves; social in what kind of society we create, where everyone’s dependent arising is okay.