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A few weeks ago I finally received Joseph Goldstein’s book Mindfulness. I learnt about him from listening to, you know it, the Making Sense podcast with Sam Harris.
Before we begin, can we appreciate how much I promote Sam Harris and his work because I should be paid for it? I’m kidding, relax.
Mindfulness is a book about Buddhist teachings and how to live mindfully and with awareness in our world. Joseph is a well-renowned Buddhist and meditation teacher and has written some of the best books on mindfulness and Buddhism. (I dare myself not to use the word Buddhist or mindfulness again in this post.)
I was a bit sceptical of how helpful it could be to me since I am not interested in any religion but the book shattered all of my doubts. It is quite honestly one of the best books I have ever read.
It took me almost a week to finish it. Not because it’s a bit long, it has more than 400 pages, but because there was just so much information and I had to sit down and put them to practice.
I know that I would write a much better post if I would have read it again but I wanted to take a break and reread it again after a week or two so I am writing this from a fresh perspective.
While I was reading it, I was being more mindful in my day to day life, and I was more aware of the emotions that were arising. It reminded me of last year when I took a 12-day mind detox (read more about it here).
The biggest and most important, I dare to say, lesson from the book is that nothing is permanent. Nothing stays the same and everything changes. Whenever I experienced a craving for something or every time I started to feel very attached to a particular outcome, I stepped back and reminded myself that 5 minutes ago I did not want this.
The feeling wasn’t always there. It appeared out of nowhere so it means that in a few minutes it will diminish or disappear altogether. This really helped me to stay in the moment and be aware of how easily manipulated I get when a thought appears.
We get so easily attached to whatever thought is in our minds at any moment that we forget it wasn’t always present. We might see a nice car and suddenly want it and put great importance on having it, but before the car appeared in front of our eyes, we were just fine without it.
Things change and not one thing stays the same. Eventually, we too change drastically and if we get attached to who we are right now, or if we cannot get past the fact that our bodies will grow old and die, we will be caught in the fear of growing old.
Speaking of fear, one quote that stood out for me, and it’s a really short one as well, is:
Fear is just a mind state.
Again, before we saw what we convinced ourselves we are afraid of, we were doing just fine. We might be convinced that we are deadly afraid of snakes yet if we would sit in a dark theatre and there would be a snake laying on the floor right beside our feet, but we wouldn’t know she was there, would we still be afraid?
Of course not. We would only be afraid when we would see her because our mind would go berserk suddenly. We are not afraid of whatever there is, we are only afraid when we know it is there.
Mindfulness is the goal of meditation. Being aware of what is in our minds at all times is the goal. Sitting down, closing our eyes, breathing deeply, and stepping back to witness it all is the key to achieving that. Witnessing what arises in each moment.
What I love about the book is also how Joseph doesn’t stay away from sharing his personal stories from meditation retreats. I always love when different teachers share their stories and remind us that no matter how far ahead they might be, they are still human beings who are learning.
If you are interested in Buddhism but don’t know where to start, or why even start in the first place, I recommend reading Mindfulness with all my heart. It will give you so much.
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