Mindfulness is the Medicine

Forrest says life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. I say life is like the wires on my headphones: A tangled mess the moment I stop paying close attention.

No matter how many times I untangle my distraught mind, it inevitably becomes tangled again. All I need to do is stop paying attention and a million knots seem to magically form. Or should I say, I stop paying attention to what I’m paying attention to. The mind wanders. It’s a categorizing, simplifying, fantastical, fearful, problem-seeking, judgmental factory of delusions that operates around the clock. And thoughts can create quite a mess if given the credibility they don’t deserve. This is why I meditate—to grant power to silence over thought and to untangle the knots.

Meditation is the practice of sitting with all that is present. It is to relax into the body, disengage from the thinking mind and watch on with non-judgmental awareness. Sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, thoughts, and emotions—they may all be present. To meditate is to observe these phenomena with non-attachment, allowing everything to be just as it is. To meditate is to temporarily free yourself from delusion, entering the natural flow of the eternal present, and experience the truth of what is.

Of course, if you’ve ever sat to meditate, you know that often times meditation is the practice of returning to the present. The mind is unbelievably adept at stealing the show. It has no shortage of compelling stories to play out (ever so generously casting me as main character in all of them), problems to solve, problems to create in order to solve, plans to make, memories to revisit—the list goes on. The practice is to keep coming back.

transformational butterfly
Pockets that once contained drugs and cigarettes are now home to this little stone butterfly—a gift my sister gave me as a symbol of my transformation.

Meditation can be both a means to an end and an end in itself. As a means, it is an exercise for developing kind awareness that’s taken beyond the cushion, into the world. As an end, it’s a time for me to check in and be with myself, my entire self, just as I am. It’s a way of looking inward, asking myself “how are you?” and carefully listening to the body as it rewards me with the truth of what is, right now, in this moment. Nothing more. No fixing or doing necessary. Just checking in. These bodies of ours can be both the cause of our suffering and a place to seek refuge. A very strange combination. It can almost feel like being itself is an abusive relationship.

“Don’t believe everything you think.” – Allan Lokos

The mind gets so wrapped up in believing its own delusions that it starts seeking solutions to fictitious problems within the delusions. Frustration arises when it can’t fix these perceived problems. Then that becomes a problem. If we’re not mindful, we may bury ourselves under many layers of these delusions, perhaps becoming crippled by them (ehem, depression). Our endless craving to fix ourselves then becomes the very bondage we’re trying to escape. How radical it can be to stop meddling and simply be with it, whatever it is any given moment. Right now, it’s like this. What does this feel like? What does it feel like to let everything be as it is, just for this moment?

It’s far too easy to get caught up in this idea that better is on the horizon. Happiness is always around the corner. Happiness is on hold for… The perfect circumstances, the perfect job, the perfect weather, the perfect whatever. I’ve spent so much of my life searching for, waiting for, and acquiring what I believed would bring happiness. Come to find out, it’s always been right here, right now, patiently waiting for me to arrive.

Meditation is the vehicle in which I arrive. Mindfulness is medicine that untangles my troubled mind.

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