The Forgotten Obvious
A sensible person once said that spiritual and mental awareness in a large part is paying attention to the obvious things in one’s life, those things that are right in front of us but often forgotten and not attended to. I recognized some of what this meant as I have been in the habit of journaling several times a week the past twenty years about my thoughts, feelings, and actions. The journaling helped me sort through and identify patterns of behavior within myself and others; but it was not until four years ago when I began to practice meditation on a regular basis that I came to a fuller understanding of this statement. Meditation puts the body and mind in a state of intense awareness not only of those things happening inside of us but also things happening outside. This had a profound effect on the way I viewed myself and how I interacted with others. This also had a major effect on how I viewed the community I lived in, the country where I live, and the world.
It is not complicated to explain when people ask the physical methods I utilize when practicing meditation. However, when people ask me about the inner mental dynamics of the meditative process, I often refer them to the easily accessible volumes of research online and at their local libraries. The astounding discoveries by brain and mind scientist, especially in the last fifteen years, has done much to explain the science behind the uncountable positive effects meditation has on the entirety of the human person. Even though I am learning more about the science daily, through the practice of meditation I have come to know that understanding completely how the process works is really of little importance. What is essential is that it is simple to practice and that it works to significantly reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
What is also important is how I found myself thinking, behaving, and being, with myself and with others. I found myself more mentally and physically sensitive to, my thoughts, my surroundings, and other living things within my observance. Less prone to words of anger, less judgmental, more open to listen and engage others with care; even those with whom I had experienced multiple previous negative interactions with in the past. I felt more at ease, more related to my immediate environment. I found myself doing things that came to me as they came to me. It was if life was bringing to me what needed to be addressed in this moment and worrying about what needed to be addressed beyond this moment went away. Stress about time constraints disappeared. In this “make sense” way of functioning time merged with the function as opposed to me trying to beat the clock. I became less worried about forgetting things and began forgetting things less often. There was an occasion when I stopped and said to myself, “Wow, I’ve really changed all of a sudden.” Then I thought, ‘I wasn’t trying to.’ When this thought registered I paused for at least 15 seconds. This awareness struck me deeply. I was doing all this without any conscious effort or a predetermined plan. I was just doing it!
There were other changes. Before, I would get all bent out of shape when work projects didn’t go as planned. Now, plans for projects and the projects themselves just seem to fall into place. I became less easily distracted. I didn’t jump to reaction every time some electronic device made a noise; this included my cell phone, my computer, my toaster, my whatever. I began to wonder, ‘How long have I been acting like a machine, mentally attached to other machines?’ It seemed as though I was getting my “humanness” back.
I started to be more attentive to people who were present with me. I became aware of their beauty as breathing, thinking, living, beings. I began turning my phone off when I was with others; whether we were speaking to each other or not, in the car, in the store, on the bus, in the elevator, where ever. The fact that I didn’t know them and had never met them, didn’t even come to my mind. I felt different. Some days I would feel ecstatic, most days calm, collected, and aware. The emotional high and lows were less frequent. My physical body had less aches and pains from the construction that I was involved in. Cuts, scratches, bruises, healed faster. I became more aware of physical needs when they were needed. I used to be the guy who would work and play the longest, be the first there and the last to leave. I’d skip breakfast, work through lunch, always work late, and eat supper before bed as my body was physically or mentally exhausted. This all changed. I paid less heed to the thoughts of the mind that in the past would convince me that, ‘it had to be done now!’ Physical function as a whole became more in tune with what ever I was physically doing at the time. There were no special diets, no organizational seminars, no health and exercise programs. I just found myself doing that which was necessary and the unnecessary subsided. I felt my body beginning to mentally, emotionally, and physically heal. I began to ask myself, “What happened in my life that I had forgotten to give attention to those things that are so obviously important? Why am I so easily and readily doing those things now?” Questions such as these directed my observance to the forgotten obvious of my life.
I and the multitude of others, who have a much longer history than me in engaging in the mental and physical health exercise of meditation, have come to significant revelations about ourselves and the world around us; what one may call blatant realities. When this occurs you become flabbergasted that your mind was inattentive to these realities for so long. This unawareness perpetuated a state of non-reality that I lived with and accepted for most of my life. These unrealities caused undue and unnecessary suffering within me and those around me. These blatant realities and unrealities are the forgotten obvious of the mind.
The Spiritual and Mental Awareness Group
I have been helping friends sort through painful life experiences for many years now. In the past few years when people would come to talk, at the end of our time together I began asking them to spend 15 minutes meditating with me. I would refer to the practice as clearing the mind. I would also encourage them to meditate on their own. Once they began the practice little encouragement was needed. Once I began doing this I started to receive conformation from those I had taught that this mental exercise had provided them similar enlightening and healing effects that I had experienced. As I, and others I had meditated with, began telling more people about the calming effect of the practice the interest grew. The evident hunger for the healing awareness that meditation provided became apparent. Not long after this I began approaching people with the idea of starting an awareness group that practiced meditation and openly shared the effects of the meditative process as well as ideas on how to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
We began group meetings once a week with six people and called ourselves the Spiritual and Mental Awareness Group. One of the attractions of being a part of the group was that unlike other groups there was no set criterion for being involved except to be physically present when possible. You didn’t have to believe anything in particular but we sometimes talked about how people’s beliefs affected mental awareness. The only cost involved was the spending of a person’s time. Usually the meditations were set for around 15 to 30 minutes of stillness. Afterwards we would discuss anything that anyone in the group had discovered about the meditative process and ways to relieve inner suffering.
The inner healing and calm that came as a result of private and group meditations and the insight that showed itself in the discussions at these group meetings was so astounding that I wanted to share it with everyone I knew. This is the purpose of these writings.