The "C" in C.A.R.E.
Throughout this course, we will be exploring an acronym I devised that will hopefully help us easily learn and integrate key mindfulness teachings into our practice and daily life. Each letter will be presented every week of class.
The first letter in the C.A.R.E. acronym is C, which points to Calm, Connect, and Concentrate.
"C" IS FOR CALM
Many turn toward mindfulness and meditation practice because they would like to find more peace, tranquility, ease, and calm. Life can be overly hectic and demanding. Our minds can become excessively full and scattered. Our hearts can fluctuate between extremes of intensity and numbness. Traditionally, this is identified as restlessness and agitation which contributes to a lot of our unease and discontent. Sound familiar? Sheesh, right?! I feel like taking a break after writing this paragraph.
Fortunately, the practice of mindfulness and meditation strongly emphasizes the mental factor of calm/tranquility. Calm supports ease in our hearts and minds. It calms our inner winds and helps us not become swept away by unwise reactivity.
Calm also allows us to see more clearly the ways we get caught up in our restless reactivity, challenging thoughts, and conflictive emotions. When we experience calm, we can better see the contrasting energy of non-calm.
It is a common, normal, and natural tendency to try and create calm by suppressing or pushing away all internal and external disturbances. This is not the goal of mindfulness practice. Instead, we aim to cultivate the capacity for greater inner calm rather than looking for external causes and conditions to be peaceful.
This inner calm takes some practice and training. Through your mindfulness and meditation practice, you will also develop a capacity to achieve inner calm even in the midst of stress with real calm, equanimity, wisdom, and compassion.
Daily Practice Suggestions for Realizing Calm:
- When you feel restless, take time to pause, breathe fully and consciously, invite some ease and relaxation in the heart, mind, and body. You do not need to force yourself to find complete calm. It is not realistic in many moments. Bringing just a bit more calm and composure is enough and is immensely beneficial, both immediately and over time. Remember this is a training process. Stopping and taking time to nourish what is healthy is better than feeding unhealthy habits. In this case, better is pretty darn good.
"C" IS ALSO FOR CONNECT
Mindfulness and meditation practice helps us to live a more connected and meaningful life. Life is short, precious, beautiful, and profound. We are alive right now, in this very moment. In fact, this is the only time we are truly alive, right now. Personally, I like to think of this moment as a crest of an ocean wave, unfolding with the momentum of life.
We, humans, have an unfortunate tendency; we get caught up in a proliferation of thoughts and habits that, to say it lightly, distract us from the miracle of this present moment life. The tendency is to think about life, creating a picture of it in our mind, rather than experiencing life as it is actually occurring.
For me, the importance of this becomes especially obvious in relation to my family. There are those times when I am preoccupied with my own thoughts, feelings, and "doings", that I lose sight of my children and wife. To the extent that I become caught up in the flow of stress and reactivity, my capacity to connect to them is lessened. I may not hear beyond the sound of their words and comprehend what they are truly trying to communicate. I may not see the way that they are inspired to the song that they are singing. I may not see how fast they are growing, putting off opportunities to connect until I have more time, meanwhile time marches on. Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to what is actually here - right now - connecting us to life more fully.
Additionally, we have a tendency to get caught up in our interpretations about what is happening. We filter what we are seeing and experiencing through our immediate perceptions and concepts. Often our first thoughts and feelings are taken to be the truth. As we all know, this is not often the case. We have an inclination to engage life relatively superficially. Mindfulness and meditation practice offer an antidote to this superficiality, allowing us to see more clearly, deeply, and intimately.
Daily Practice Suggestions for Realizing Connection:
- Check-Ins: Take time to pause and discern. Do I feel connected? Do I feel disconnected? Sometimes you will want this to be a light inquiry; sometimes you will want to explore your feelings of engagement more deeply. For example, when you are in dialogue with someone, see if you can be more connected to their words and body language, and less identified with your inner dialogue. Another time, you may contemplate even more deeply, i.e., "Does my mood and the way that I am interacting with them reflect my love for them?"
"C" IS ALSO FOR CONCENTRATE
A steady, stable mind is a reflection of well-being. Remember, during times of unease our emotions, thoughts, and body often feel reactive, agitated, scattered, fragmented, and disconnected. It is, however, normal to experience these things to cultivate the skill of resilience and facilitate more rapid recovery as we work to improve the stability of mind. The traditional word for this is Samadhi, usually translated as concentration.
As useful as this translation is, we need to be careful not to mistake its meaning to suggest a striving and forceful focusing. It is more accurate to think of Samadhi as a steady, stable, and composed mind that is supported by mindful awareness.
One way to think of concentration is by likening it to a stable camera. If the camera is stable, the image that it will take will be sharp and in focus. If the camera is unsteady, the image will be blurry and out of focus. If our mind is unstable and unfocused, our perceptions become distorted.
Concentration can also be likened to an anchor, allowing our mind to stay connected even when the waves are agitated.
Ultimately, in mindfulness practice, we are trying to concentrate and collect our mind around what is happening in the present moment. As we move through the course, we will learn beneficial areas of mind and experience to bring our steady, stable awareness to body, feelings, mental events, environment, etc.
Daily Practice Suggestions for Realizing Concentration:
- For now, we are using the breath to strengthen our concentration during meditation practice. We are also, checking in as we live our daily life, being more mindful of our state of calm and connectivity.