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Mindfulness Q&A: "Nothingness vs. Self?"


A student in my Benzo Recovery School asked:


"I have a question, specifically for coach, but one which others may benefit from. I'm not sure if it belongs in this space, so please redirect me if it belongs somewhere else.


Mindfulness. I've just listened to the lesson on it. I THINK I grasp it, but not fully, so will need to relisten a few times. I understand it's not 'emptying your mind' , rather, just being a watcher and observer of the present moment with no judgment. Is that correct? Which I can absolutely see the benefit of when it comes to thoughts/feelings etc. we DON'T want (ie to view them as neutral rather than bad or scary would be AMAZING).



But one thing I've always stumbled over is not judging things as 'good' either. I like the good, I want more of it 🤣 I don't want to take that label away 🤣 I also find it difficult to just staying in the moment and not look back (at good memories/feelings that produce feel good chemicals) or looking into the future (at events you might be looking forward to, which the excitement of also produce feel good chemicals). Does that make sense?


I think I'm missing something, as I'm kind of viewing mindfulness as a state of 'nothing'. Which leaves me wondering where the meaning of life is. Coach can you help me out here, because I really want to benefit from mindfulness and not misunderstand.Ah, great question. I have a solution for you and it involves perspective. Things are neight "good" or "bad", if you really think about it. It's a bit of semantics on some level, but there is a difference. Take looking at beautiful sunset. We can call it 'good', but is it? What is good? What we mean to say is I 'enjoy' looking at a beautiful sunset. It may even 'feel' good. It may make me feel a sense of peace or even bliss. And so as a umbrella term we call it "good". But good is also a judgment. I.e., "that's a good rainbow..." Then on another day we may see a thing half broken rain and think, "well that's a crummy rainbow...."


A wonderful question. Let me address the first part first:


I have a solution for you, and it involves perspective. Things are neither "good" nor "bad" if you really think about it. It's a bit of semantics on some level, but there is a difference. Take looking at a beautiful sunset. We can call it 'good,' but is it? What is good? We mean to say I 'enjoy' seeing a beautiful sunset. It may even 'feel' good. It may make us feel a sense of peace or even bliss. And so, as an umbrella term, we call it "good". But good is also a judgment. I.e., "That's a good rainbow..." Then, another day, we may see a thin half broken rainbow and think, "Well that's a crummy rainbow...."


The difference is between experiencing something as it is vs. adding our judgment.


Both rainbows are beautiful. One may be more beautiful than the next. But one is not good, and the other is not crummy.


There's a profound difference in the value we subjectively give a thing (which differs from person to person) vs. the actual natural reaction to the experience of that thing.


In this way, judging something as "bad" is similar to judging it as "good."


Stop judging. Ah, but it's SO difficult!


Why? Well, for many reasons, but one dynamic reason is that we strengthen our sense of self through a series or process of judgments! It's part of the physiology of the ego.


The problem is the ego isn't fully real. It isn't whole. It's essentially neurotic. It lives in a dualistic world of good and bad. Our ego (I think I am. Therefore I am) is a reflection of our experiences, our beliefs, where we live, how much money we have, how attractive we are, how popular we are, the things we like or were taught to like, etc., etc., the list keeps going and going.... our politics, our eye color, how funny we are, how charming we are, our favorite band or group, our favorite film, our opinions on taxes, how we vote, pray, cry, etc.


It's all clothing of the thought-based sense of self. I'm sure you can see by now how problematic that is. The difference between living an authentic life that resonates with a deeper YOU or living in this ego, this collection of clothing handed to us. Some clothes may fit, perhaps the shirt, but others will not. Nor are they a true reflection of your style.


Here's the thing. Everything we are truly after: peace, bliss, joy, creativity, inspiration, playfulness, wonder, balance, and a deep connection with an undeniable sense of self, all exists right now... inside each one of us. We need not go searching for it. We need not go "creating" who we are. We need not go finding ourselves or reinventing who we are. All would be traps anyway. It would be like exchanging one group of clothes that didn't fit or match your style for another group that didn't fully fit or match your style.


So what do we do? We move beyond a thought-based sense of self. We reconnect with that inner being that exists buried beneath the incessant stream of thoughts.


What happens with enough meditation is all of our little trips begin to melt and float away, and what comes rising up from the depths of the repressed is an old beautiful and perfect familair face! And we go, "OMG! Yes! I remember now! I remember feeling this way as a child."


And indeed, it is a feeling, not a thought. We cannot think our way to who we are. We have to feel it. It's a feeling.


If I ask you what your favorite color is, you will look inside and feel the answer; otherwise, you'll give me an intellectual answer, one that may not truly resonate with what's inside you.


Now, back to the second part of her question:

"I think I'm missing something, as I'm kind of viewing mindfulness as a state of 'nothing'. Which leaves me wondering where the meaning of life is. Coach can you help me out here, because I really want to benefit from mindfulness and not misunderstand it..."


Again, the meaning is permeating behind our incessant thoughts. We don't need to fabricate meaning. You don't need to necessarily create some meaning for your existence. Rather, when you get beyond thoughts and reconnect to that deeper truth inside, suddenly, the meaning if found! Only this time, it's undeniable meaning. It's real because it came from inside you. Otherwise, meaning is subjective and fleeting. It's a state of nothingness that leads to everythingness. It can be intimidating at first because it's a gradual practice of letting go in order to swim. We can swim by gripping the water. So we need faith that we can slowly let it go and that a deeper sense of it all will emerge. This is a slow-developing process that we achieve through sustained presence. Again. One last example. You're walking on your morning walk, and you come across a beautiful rose. The moment you stop and analyze the rose, you've lost it. You're losing it. You need not stop and judge the rose. Are there any flaws? Is the color right? Is it healthy enough? Could it be better? Do you want roses at your house? What kind of rose is it? Etc., It's almost like meeting a person, but instead of truly meeting them, we get caught up in assessing and analyzing the person's looks and resume. Being present IS the answer. That's when you will truly see the rose. That's when you will truly see yourself. That's when you can rise above dualistic black-and-white thinking (good or bad). And indeed, all of the 'goodwill still be there. It doesn't go away the moment we stop thinking or judging it so.


One last point. Being mindful doesn't mean you cannot have memories or look back on our past, nor does it mean we cannot have thoughts or imagination, etc. It just means that we regain control over these functions, largely, and we need not be a victim to our incessant thinking and rumination. Wouldn't it be nice to use our mind, instead of our mind using us?!






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