Walk a mile with someone, you’ll never see them the same way again.
Posts From The Path
I was the type of student who rarely spoke in class. I was engaged and excited by the material, but when it came to discussion or asking questions, I was so afraid of looking stupid that I typically clammed up—so much that a high school classmate of mine, a good friend, once yell-whispered “Say something!!” to me during a heated class debate in which I was anxiously silent. (That didn’t make things better.)
What I came to notice, though, through high school and beyond, was that people would often ask questions or make observations that I’d been thinking of, but that hadn’t occurred to me to say. And then I’d get annoyed that I hadn’t!
There, again, was the belief that I had nothing new or interesting to say. The fear went deeper, though: in all the ways I felt different, I worried that no one could relate to me. By remaining silent, I believed, I could avoid the pain of feeling rejected, or conversely, avoid the anxiety of having to discuss life circumstances that felt overwhelming.
Whether from others or within myself, the threat of rejection was everywhere. And so for years I unconsciously dismissed my opinions before they fully surfaced in my mind; but they were validated whenever someone echoed them.
Your experience matters more than you know, and sharing it could create the permission someone else needs to do the same.
I don’t know about “improving as a human being”, I think this is more a side-effect of how you live your life, rather than a direct result of any given practice. But there’s a couple really easy things I do that most people overlook.
Get up every half hour or so and just walk around for a minute. We spend way too much time sitting down.
Drink loads of water. I mean, constantly. I take a sip every ~5 minutes throughout the entire day, aim for 3 liters if possible. It’s one of the most important tweak you can do to your diet, and the easiest one.
Take cold/alternate showers. Lots of benefits for muscle recovery, and it just makes you feel amazing too.
I do not sacrifice good sleep for anything.
Eat lots of small meals throughout the day. I also try to be reasonable about food, I’m not a “vegan”, but I avoid meat. I’m not “gluten-free”, but I stay away from bread and pasta if I can. I don’t eat any junk/convenience food.
I read a book for an hour, and play an instrument for an hour, every day.
waawftutki in Reddit
Several years ago, a friend of mine got a group of people together to go “walk a labyrinth” at a cathedral here in San Francisco. I had visions of a huge maze of hedges and was not at all sure what spiritual significance this was supposed to have, but hey, new experience. So I went. The cathedral was dark, quiet, and solemn (as cathedrals generally are)—an atmosphere I find very relaxing. On the floor in the back of the sanctuary was a large wool tapestry measuring about 36 feet (11m) in diameter, woven in a labyrinth pattern. (The same cathedral also has an outdoor labyrinth made of inlaid stone.) We took off our shoes, went to the starting point, and one by one began walking the winding path toward the center. Unlike a maze, this type of medieval labyrinth design does not have any dead ends; a single, continuous path leads to a large open area in the center; you retrace the same path to leave. Several people may walk the labyrinth at once; the loose protocol indicates that you can walk at whatever speed you want, stepping around slower-moving meditators if you wish. People usually spend a few minutes in silence at the center before returning to the starting point. The whole walk took me about a half hour.
Setting Up the “Gatekeeper” Inside
I like to use the simile for mindfulness of a person who’s guarding a door or guarding a gate. The simile of the gatekeeper to describe mindfulness was used by the Buddha (AN VII, 63). For mindfulness is not just being aware, being awake, or being fully conscious of what’s occurring around you. There is also that aspect of mindfulness that guides the awareness on to specific areas, remembers the instructions and initiates a response. For example, suppose you were a wealthy person with a gatekeeper guarding your mansion. One evening, before going to the Buddhist Temple to practise meditation, you tell the gatekeeper to be mindful of burglars. When you return home, your loving kindness suddenly vanishes when you find your house has been burgled. “Didn’t I tell you to be mindful?”, you scream at the gatekeeper. “But I was mindful”, pleads the gatekeeper. “I gave attention to the burglars as they broke in, and I was clearly attentive as they walked out with your digital T.V. and state-of-the-art C.D. system. I mindfully watched them go in several times, and my mind did not wander as I observed them going out with all your antique furniture and priceless jewellery.”
Would you be happy with such a gatekeeper’s explanation of mindfulness? A wise gatekeeper knows that mindfulness is more than bare attention. A wise gatekeeper has to remember the instructions and perform them with diligence. If he sees a thief trying to break in then he must stop the burglar, or else call in the police.