What is Mindfulness?
From the viewpoint of worldly concern, practically everyone is capable of being mindful. All sentient beings have the instinctive longing for what they desire and the instinctive aversion to what they prefer to avoid. However, selective awareness of only what we feel is important to us, with no concern for the effect it may have on others, is in reality far from being truly mindful.
True mindfulness is the impartial awareness that goes far beyond seeing only what you select to see while ignoring the bigger picture of the truth. True mindfulness is a proactive form of appreciation, which recognises each phenomenon as what it truly is and what it is not. It offers a much wider perspective than focusing on the self; not merely of the compositional factors involved, but also of their dependent origination in karmic formation and of the resulting influence it has on the self, on others and further afield.
Oftentimes, desire of one sort or another may arise in your mind, and you feel an overwhelming urge to go along with it. On such occasions, did you ever pause to examine the reason why this desire came about? Were you compelled by a strong wish of compassion to generate the greatest benefit for the greater many or were you driven by a compulsive craving to gratify the grasping of a certain conceptual image you have in your mind?
It is common nowadays for many to speak with an air of smugness about how righteous they feel in their spontaneity of acting out of the heart's desire; of how wonderful they feel when they right the ills of society by imposing their frustration and disdain upon those whom they perceived as transgressors. Many regrettable events and tragedies in the world have been caused by this uncontrollable spontaneity of wilfulness. While some have been known to enjoy some degree of initial success in their misguided endeavour, the joy and elation that comes with it have a habit of swiftly turning into bitterness and disappointment. The history of human civilisation is full of testimonies to this undeniable fact. No amount of perseverance in repeating acts of ignorance, no matter how much effort you put into it; no matter how noble you would like to label it - in the name of love or more lofty beliefs; in no way could an activity borne out of ignorance, generate satisfaction or causes of satisfaction for you or others in the final analysis.
So why do we persist in repeating the same foolishness? The answer is simple: what we perceived as spontaneous actions and to which much pride is attached have never been actions borne out of wisdom. These are products of ignorance due to the lack of certainty in the understanding of what one is experiencing. When one chooses to see only what one desires to see with no regard to the truth behind the bigger picture, the result is inevitably dissatisfaction at every turn; thus giving rise to even more fear and anxiety, and prompting one to act in an even more self-absorbed mode, even more defensively in the hope that conditions may improve. Regardless of whether you are willing to accept it or not; you can only reap what you sow. If you plant an apple tree, you get apples and not oranges. While you have the choice over what you may or may not do; you have no choice over the final outcome. When hope and expectation that have no bearing on the ultimate truth keep missing each other, why should it be surprising that your faith in what you have conceptually believed to be the purpose of your existence falters more and more? How could happiness or the causes of satisfaction be generated this way?
If you have the genuine wish to resolve issues you feel dissatisfaction with in your life, you need to begin with the right kind of mindfulness that nurtures an honest relationship with yourself. You need to get to know the real you that has been hidden away behind the façade of your make-believe image. You need to dismantle the ego-barrier that has been preventing you from recognising your original nature within and what that represents. This is of course not an easy thing to do by yourself; but is very feasible if you are sincere in your action, humble in your attitude and have the guidance of a qualified master.
The first step to lasting happiness is to start with the right motivation in recognising that no true happiness can come about at the expense of others' happiness. Strive to cultivate a win-win scenario in everything you do by taking into account the effect that your action may have on others. Always reflect thoroughly upon the cause and effect of what you intend to do before you do it. If you are supporting a charity event, ask yourself: did you really want to help them or did you do it because you want to be recognised as a generous sponsor? You need to ask yourself why you have a craving for certain relationships in your life. Did you do it from a point of loneliness wanting someone to pamper your ego, admiring you, making you feel less insecure? Or did you feel you have something of lasting value you wish to share with others unconditionally? These are simple questions but the answers, if you can uncover them, have a profound effect behind the type of motivation you form.
The right motivation at the onset of any undertaking will always give the right direction and momentum that is required to attain the best possible outcome. Once the right motivation is in place, all you have to do is to be mindful in maintaining the quality of your effort, to ensure you have a good beginning, a good middle and a good finish. If you can remain at ease yet mindful at all times, then you too can attain the two-fold fulfilment of generating happiness and the causes of happiness for yourself and the greater world at large.