Draw three circles within each other and in the inner circle place the names of people whom you consider real friends. If you are lucky you will write a few names in this circle.
In the next circle you place those whose company you enjoy. You might have similar interests, they might make you laugh or make you feel good somehow. You are likely to have many more in this circle.
In the final circle name those ‘friends’ who are of use to you, functional friends. These are people whom you connect with for a purpose, often for mutual benefit or because you need or want something that you hope this person can help you with. This circle will have even more names. Often Linkedin contacts, Facebook friends and people in business in general will represent many of these people.
It is likely that you have met all the people in your circles through either a need or you felt good in each other’s company or perhaps you had something in common. A few of the outer circle relationships will have grown into now being in the inner circle friendship. The inner circle represents those whom you wish the very best for and possibly, who you will set aside your own needs to help and support also you take joy in their happiness (this categorization of friendships is by Aristotle).
Friendships, like with relationships, usually come to something out of a perceived need, sometimes pain and sometimes desire. Most people who seek me out for mindfulness retreats, training or coaching are no different.
I wonder what brought you to mindfulness? What was your pain point? Lack of life quality, feeling overwhelmed, stress, feeling pressured, lack of joy or confidence, relationship challenges, pointlessness, or the diet binge cycle?
We tend come to mindfulness through the outer circle, seeing it as a tool for change, and as you know, when you take it on and do the practice, it delivers. Gradually your pain symptoms are reduced and you start to feel more relaxed, more joyful, calmer and clearer. At this point you might drop your mindfulness training as it has given you what you wanted.
And then again you might also continue because it feels good. If that is the case, then you have moved into the second circle; you are enjoying the company of mindfulness and you are enjoying what it gives you.
At some point mindfulness might then become ‘The Way’, it transforms you, you carry the underpinnings of mindfulness within you and you can no longer not practice. You notice impermanence and it is your comfort, but you also notice the pain it causes; however you no longer turn it into suffering. You notice when your heart is no longer open to someone and you look within (with kind curiosity) for answers. You notice sensations arise within the body and you listen to its language. You notice that things that used to be so very important have lost their luster. You notice that you no longer set goals, rather you set intentions and you are curious about the unfolding journey. You no longer pursue with huge importance efficiency, money, possessions, promotions, a perfect body or being strong.
In fact, you now see these pursuits as having no inherent value, you can now see them as being sold as means to contentment and relief from anxiety and pain. You already know contentment as a state that you cultivate independently of what is happening externally. You see that your dependency in achieving societies ‘ideals’ leaves you dependent on external factors for contentment; a tricky predicament as it leaves you very vulnerable to change. You know that you can’t become self confident by only achieving as you will always have to keep achieving to stay confident, just like the sugar high that needs constant feeding. You also notice that you are easier moved by beauty, kindness and generosity.
Mindfulness is so often described in a very superficial way, as just a tool, a means to high performance or reducing anxiety. It is true that it offers that, but also so much more than that. If we practice mindfulness to get a competitive edge or to just become more effective, then we haven’t been transformed. We have reduced mindfulness to a tool without having tasted what it offers.
The world needs us to move mindfulness into the inner circle. From the inner circle you ‘are mindfulness’. It becomes the way you live and the way you see life – interconnected, interdependent and impermanent. From this place it would be unthinkable that we intentionally hurt anyone, that we vote for anyone who is divisive, that we think it ok to reduce tax for the wealthy while taking from the most vulnerable (opposite to Robyn Hood).
From this place I am no longer noticing the breeze, I am one with it, one with the birds, one with the breath.
Take up our challenge Small Steps – Big Changes, to practice every day in 2017, even if at times it is only for one minute.