Back when I drank, I enjoyed learning about wine. One of the keys to appreciating wine is learning to recognize and describe its various aromas. Some wines have “notes” you would expect. Vanilla, almonds, black cherries. And some wines have notes you would not expect. Sweaty socks, tar, wet Pomeranian. Believe it or not, some of the highest quality wines have these unexpected aromas, given them character and depth. Appreciating wine is about noticing and describing What Is, not What Should Be.
In mindfulness, we talk about “bare awareness.” This is your ability to directly experience something without filtering it through your expectations or ready-made judgments. Maybe you spend the day with your grandmother, the kindest person on the planet, yet you observe yourself feeling angry with her for no clear reason. Maybe you just got a big promotion, years in the making, but you feel empty and depressed. By practicing mindfulness, you simply notice what you are feeling – not what you are “supposed” to be feeling. If you’re gong to make a lasting change in your life, you start by being totally honest with yourself about where you are right now. You do this by being fully present in your moment-to-moment experience rather than habitually editing things to fit your familiar Life Story.
Going with the Flow
The more you learn to experience your life as it is, along with its many, seemingly contradictory elements, the more your actions become thoughtful and compassionate. It’s not exactly that you’re trying to be thoughtful and compassionate. It’s that thoughtfulness and compassion naturally arise from your increased awareness of your surroundings, other people and your own nervous system. When you act from a mindful space, you experience connectedness. You see the Bigger Picture. You accept the apparently negative or unplanned aspects of your experience because you realize that without these “sweaty socks,” your life would be less rich, less meaningful, less profound. Rather than always fighting with your life, you begin to relax, entering into the natural flow of things. By embracing What Is, you become your true self.