Among all the things we ostensibly seek in our desire for happiness, I think we’re ultimately searching for a “joy of connectedness.” We desire a confluence of joyful solitude, community, and love partnership, each of which informs and strengthens the other.
Such exhilarating connections do not happen by accident, as I’m learning through the triumphs and setbacks of my personal journey. They are the culmination of acting on a progressive set of “mindfulness intentions,” each of which clears the path for, and is integrated into, the next one:
1. Visceral Awareness. I don’t think we can move toward sustainable, multi-dimensional intimacy until we’ve closed the “awareness gap” between our cognitive functions and our bodily organs.
2. Present Living. Learning to be more consistently aware of our bodily sensations, and the emotions that drive them, sets the tone for us being more fully engaged with who and what is right before us in any given moment.
3. Emotional Peace. Flowing from the deeper awareness and sense of wholeness facilitated by living out the first two mindfulness intentions, we can then learn to counter impulses with observations and restraint, “suffer fools” more lovingly, and learn to release our anger in healthy ways while making lasting peace with unwise actions we cannot undue. Simplicity of living is also a key practice here.
4. Diminished Attachments to Outcomes. As whole, peaceful individuals, we practice growing more cognizant of the need to have our accomplishments, efforts, or sufferings recognized by others, and more fully notice our tendencies to try to control or manipulate.
5. Joy in Solitude, Community, and Love Partnership. Finally, as each progressive mindfulness step transcends the other, we grow into a season where we regularly find meaning in solitude. This peaceful grounding in our own being equips us to truly prioritize community, offering ourselves with authenticity, and makes us more likely to stay committed to ongoing individual growth while fully loving a life partner who’s committed to their own respective growth.
Now that I’ve identified this pathway to ongoing mindfulness and all the peace and joy it can bring, in my own practice I’m going deeper into the disciplines that need to occur daily. As a writer who learns and grows through the very process of writing, it helps me tremendously to construct words around the practices and to share them with whomever is interested in being in community with me.
Beginning with Visceral Awareness, I find it helpful to practice “mindful breathing.”
I also recognize that I generally suck at doing this with any consistency! I’m breathing all the time, thankfully, but noticing it so little of the time. I’m far from alone in this paradox, but that doesn’t preclude my responsibility for my own awareness.
Those moments when I do tune in to my breathing never let me down. I notice that it’s impossible to stay in an emotionally volatile space if I’m feeling my breath flowing in, rising up, and then flowing out. Each noticed “breath loop” tastes like a small sip of divinity, because it’s a gentle brush against our true essence as conscious energy inhabiting organic form. Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
Are you still reading this? Pause now and notice your own breathing. Do it for several minutes. Take note of how it re-frames your current emotions and perspectives. Then repeat.
Let’s keep doing this practice together, even if we’re not able to discuss it or observe each other. We’ve got this! (Well, we might not have it yet, but with perseverance and mutual support, we shall progress.)