Begin the Ascent

Session 4 - Mindfulness

Are you ready to put the final touches in your backpack? You’ve already got food and water, your Swiss Army Knife, and appropriate clothing. Now, to add to your enjoyment and help you see more clearly, top it all off with a pair of binoculars.

So far in this series, we’ve looked at three fundamental principles of personal power. In the first session, on the Importance of Core Values, we examined the importance of being true to what matters to us. In the second session, on Alignment, we looked at how emotions, thoughts and actions either work together and produce positive results, or get in each other’s way and produce conflict. In the third session, we explored the relationship of Cause and Effect to understand how the combination of our three dynamic energies unite to generate results. And now, in session #4, we will consider Mindfulness as a creative force, based on the principle that we can’t change what we can’t see.

Methods of Becoming Calm Fillable Worksheet

Most of us are not very good at looking at ourselves objectively. We tend to see ourselves in terms of expectations, the expectations of our culture, our families, and ourselves. We develop beliefs about how things do work and about how they should work. And then, as beliefs and expectations get stirred together in our minds, they become the yardstick by which we measure ourselves. We see ourselves as good or bad, right or wrong, according to external forces which are so strong and entrenched we can’t see the truth of ourselves. We see our flaws and believe they are truer than our strengths. We count missteps as mistakes instead of learning experiences.

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And then, being preoccupied with what doesn’t work, isn’t right, shouldn’t happen, or is going downhill, what’s wrong becomes how we see the world. How could we possibly be expected to recognize the creative power within? What if we easily see what we don’t want, but what we do want remains a mystery? What if it’s more difficult to recognize the part we play in the dramas of our life than the parts played by others? What if it’s even more difficult to recognize the problem-solving tools we have already acquired?

That’s where mindfulness comes in. When we become mindful, we can become neutral, and neutrality is the truest way to find a new yardstick. Through mindfulness we can cultivate beliefs and habits that serve us, that will help us live the truest lives we can and create our own best good.

I recently experienced a dramatic lesson in mindfulness.

After a long day at my computer, I decided to hike one of my favorite trails. It was late afternoon, nearing evening, and I was tired. Because the trail closes at sundown, I had just enough time to hike up to the 2-mile marker and back. So, during the entire hike I was focused on time, on keeping up my pace, and on getting back to my car in time. Going up, I checked my phone at the 1-mile marker to gauge my pace. Doing just fine. At the 2-mile marker, I checked again. A little slow, but still okay. I tucked my phone back into my waist pack and tried to pick up my pace. When I returned to the 1-mile market again, I reached for my phone, and it wasn’t there. It wasn’t there! I didn’t quite panic, but I knew I was in a bad situation. Mentally retracing my steps, I figured I must not have gotten my phone tucked into the right pocket of my pack at all, I had just assumed so.

 Because I had been so preoccupied with time while not actually paying attention to my phone, it had probably fallen on the ground instead. I had to go back for it. A mile each way. Forty minutes at least. It was absolutely going to be dark before I could (hopefully) find my phone and then hike back to the parking lot. As it happened, I met up with a bicyclist who had spotted my phone, picked it up, and was on the alert for whoever had dropped it.

As I later reviewed the incident, I realized that for the entire hike, from leaving my car at the trail head until recovering my phone, I had not been present. I had paid no attention to the scenery, no attention to my connection with the earth, no attention to the peace I usually experience when I’m out in nature. I was not, for even a moment, in joy or awe or gratitude. I was totally focused on time and on how tired I was. I was more conscious of the parking ticket I might get if a ranger monitored the parking lot for non-compliance. I did not get a citation, but I was certainly out of compliance with my own values and my own connection to my self. 

The key to being true to one’s self is mindfulness. And mindfulness is simply a matter of staying conscious, of learning to be the observer.

Now, we all know how busy the mind can be. It jumps from one topic to another with the smallest provocation (or no provocation at all). It gets distracted. It argues with itself. It jumps to conclusions and makes up stories. It remembers things we want to forget and forgets things we want to remember. In these and other ways, the mind can be unreliable.

So if the mind is unreliable, why would we want to trust it at all?

Well, because it is also creative. With our minds, we learn, we think, we conceive, we reason. With our minds, we assimilate what our senses perceive. With our minds we discern the difference between fact and fiction. With our minds we weigh options and make choices.

Obviously, the challenge is to quiet the chattering mind and to give the creative mind free rein.

The space between chattering and creativity is called neutrality. It’s the ability to observe any and all aspects of our lives through an objective lens (as with a good pair of binoculars). Mindfulness is awareness. It’s noticing what is and seeing without judgment. It’s opening our senses and being fully present. It’s not insisting that for one thing to be right something else has to be wrong. It’s checking in with ourselves regularly to determine what deserves our attention and what does not. 

As you may have guessed from the above story, hiking is my favorite pastime and my preferred form of exercise. It fills a variety of needs for me. Sometimes I hike specifically for the exercise, focusing on going faster or farther, getting my heart rate up and making sure I’m breathing properly. On those hikes, I focus on my body and my body’s relationship with the ground.

Sometimes I hike for companionship with a friend. On those hikes, I pay more attention to the conversation than to where I place my feet.

Sometimes I hike for the deep inner pleasure of being one with the planet and/or the universe. On those hikes I open my senses and am more aware of the sounds and smells and sights of the world around me. I’m more likely to experience awe and joy.

Sometimes I hike as a way to think or meditate, and on those hikes my mind may become busier or quieter, depending on whether I’m puzzling through a question or savoring the experience. Either way I discover more about myself and my purpose.

While the reasons vary, they all have one thing in common: if I don’t stay mindful, I’m more likely to fall. Or lose my phone. Or take a wrong turn. In this and other ways, hiking is sort of my metaphor for life. I have learned (and continue to relearn) the value of being mindful and staying neutral. 

Both aspects are important. If I am agitated about something – worried, upset, disgruntled, unhappy, frustrated, or preoccupied – I’m more likely to be careless and unobservant. Therefore unmindful. When I am neutral, my senses tend to be more alert. I am more observant, and my intuition is more available. This same observation applies in all aspects of my life, playing or working, doing chores, running errands, or solving problems.

I suspect most of us are more effective and more creative when we’re mindful. But just accepting this as true doesn’t mean it’s easy to get there. 

I have included a handout with this lesson called Methods for Becoming Calm. It offers techniques for releasing inner conflict and finding neutrality. It is fillable, so you can use it simply as a reference or as a means to self-discovery. The check boxes at each method are for that purpose, to help you explore the possibilities and choose the ones that work best for you.

Methods of Becoming Calm Fillable Worksheet

As you use this list, please note that there is no best way. And there is no best place to start. Any techniques that help you release tension and find calm will be right for you. Also, recognize that some methods might work best in some situations and a different method might work better in another situation.

I encourage you to experiment. Try each one. Mix them up and try them in different combinations. Use the check boxes as seems right to you. You might want to check one off when you’ve tried it, or when it works for you. Or when it doesn’t work for you.

For the purposes of this session, the point is to become more neutral so that you can be more mindful so that you can be truer to yourself.

Mindfulness is simply a matter of staying conscious, of learning to be the observer.

If you have found value in this four-part series, we encourage you to share them with your friends, and we invite you to continue on with us as you progress along this path to wisdom, creation, and personal power.

Look at the world with wonder and at yourself with warmth.

Previous Session – Cause and Effect

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Coming Soon – Relief from Suffering

If you are not already enrolled in a Path of Mastery workshop, I encourage you to do so now. These 10-week workshops combine the study of my book Being the Creator and group coaching. I invite you to explore and participate in the wealth of other free programs offered on this website.