Looking Glasses

Patience is a form of wisdom

Jon Kabat-Zinn

I’ve started an outdoor meditation practice. Around 5:15 a.m., shortly before sunrise, I sit on the plant-filled deck and begin a 10-minute contemplation. The moon is bright and a few stars twinkle in the distance. My mind stills before the fires of dawn ignite the eastern sky. Notes of morning birdsong amplify into melodic masterpieces; the cool, dewy summer air nourishes my skin and calms my senses; and slight breezes pass through wooded trees as creatures scurry from branches. Suddenly, all is well.
It’s ironic that we must close our eyes to distinctively see the world around us. Clarity is the manifestation of consistent mindfulness practice. I’d like to share three key things I’ve learned from a few years of self-reflective study.
First, judgement comes easily when we do it so readily to ourselves. I conduct speeches aimed at stigma-reduction based on my personal experiences with mental health challenges. Mental struggles are hard-fought and may bear fruit if we persist. As I’ve let my pain transform me into a better human being, concepts like self-love and acceptance become tangible and true. Loving-kindness meditations ask us to direct compassion towards ourselves – it’s only then that we can authentically offer it to others.
Secondly, intuitive knowledge is in multi-layered reality, not fear-based extremes. In dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), we learn the traps of “black and white thinking” and the concurrence of opposite notions holding equal validity. Also called an all-or-nothing cognitive distortion, black and white thinking is our tendency towards bias. Mindfulness teaches me the value of heart-centered (versus ego-centered) living, where an integration of logic and intuition provides treasures of universal truths. A plus to this is a profound sense of unity – a cessation of conflict and dissonance.
Finally, critical thinking ability is a secondary (albeit priceless) reward of meditation practice. By this, I mean the capacities for stress management increase tenfold. For me, the art of non-reactivity consists of a 3-part reality check: (1) is this coming from a place of love, (2) what can I do less of today, and (3) does this have the potential to fundamentally change and grow my life (by expanding my mind)? Consequently, introspection helps tremendously when defining and setting healthy relationship boundaries.
Perception, knowledge, and discernment can be ambiguous concepts; yet, they’re essential components of our daily function. In a world fraught with confusion and chaos, we must do our best to cultivate value and worth into our lives. Mindfulness meditation is a strategic tool to sift through information overwhelm, root into our own identity, and see the humanity within others. The most challenging, most powerful, most rewarding project we will ever take on is the reflection in the mirror.
Progress is possible. Where will you begin?

By Kim Bragado for The Authentic Thinker