Mindfulness for 2016: What are your intentions?
Developing and deepening mindfulness is a lifelong process. Traditionally in our culture, the upcoming New Year is used as a way to reflect on the past and what we hope to accomplish in the future. Now might be a good time to reflect on your practice. However, rather than set goals or resolutions, it is more beneficial to look at your intentions and not expectations. Live in a state of not knowing as we cannot determine how life will flow and we will be disappointed if the expectations that we set are not met.
Reflect on your practice
In Realizing Awakened Consciousness, Richard Boyle provides transcripts of his interviews with eleven current Buddhist teachers. Each one was asked to describe how he/she got started in Buddhism and where the path led from there. I observed several common themes in their stories. First, all started with seeking although many did not at first know or understand what they were looking for. Second, each of the teachers then described how life led them in directions that they wouldn’t have imagined. Third, there was back and forth accumulation of knowledge and experience that took years. Fourth, the awakening to what is was gradual and intermittent rather than sudden. Fifth, intention grew stronger over time. Sixth, all view the path as a lifelong endeavor; it is not a question of reaching a goal and ending practice.
Imagine that you are being interviewed regarding your practice. How would you respond to the following questions?
How and when did you get started in Buddhism.
Where did your path lead from there?
Did any unexpected circumstances take place?
What role das meditation played?
How have you changed?
What are your intentions for the new year?
Intentions to consider
The Buddha’s teaching, The Four Noble Truths, provides the basis for a lifelong intention to see life as it really is. The Eightfold Path provides specifc guidance and practice to fully integrate with life. The Eightfold path is divided into three components: Wisdom and Compassion, Leading a skillful life, and the Practice. Below are listed the steps of the Eightfold Path under each component with intentions to consider.
Wisdom and Compassion
Know and understand the Four Noble Truths.
Develop faith and confidence that there are people who have been able to transform their suffering.
Understand cause and effect (karma).
Practice the three skillful thoughts (generosity, loving kindness (metta), compassion).
Leading a Skillful Life
Avoid malicious talk.
Avoid harsh language.
Avoid any livelihood inherently harmful to self and others.
Avoid any livelihood that might cause you to break any of the five moral precepts.
Avoid any livelihood that might make it difficult for the mind to settle down.
Refrain from killing.
Refrain from stealing.
Refrain from speaking falsely.
Refrain from sexual misconduct.
Refrain from misusing alcohol or other intoxicants.
Prevent negative states of mind.
Overcome negative states of mind.
Cultivate positive states of mind.
Maintain positive states of mind.
Aware if experiencing one of the five hindrances (attraction, aversion, restlessness, dullness, doubt).
Practice mindfulness with meditation and off the cushion awareness.
Practice skillful concentration.