Mindfulness quotes can inspire us when we need it most. They can be a powerful way of reminding us how to put our current struggles into perspective for more peace, calm and clarity. Enjoy! Feel free to share these 10 inspirational mindfulness quotes on your social media page.
We have no control over what comes up in our mind. None. This much should be clear to anyone who has ever tried to meditate – or even anyone who has ever had a song stuck in their head for a while. But this is not all bad. For example, there can be immense joy in just sitting down and watching with fascination what thoughts come up for us. In fact, this is how most artists work! It’s what we call inspiration. They simply develop the gift and talent of being able to observe their thoughts and recognize the ones that truly resonate with them, bring them joy, and capture their imagination. And they don’t even control what they resonate with – or why. It just happens. It’s just the way it is. It’s all very mysterious.
So why do we act like we do have control over the content of our mind, and feel guilty for what it thinks and does? Not only this won’t help us, but it will agitate our minds more, thus creating more and more thoughts we don’t like.
Stop struggling, just for a moment. Let your mind think whatever it wants to think and see that it has nothing to do with you. It’s just what it does. You cannot stop it. Thoughts keep coming like waves, but like waves they also vanish. The ocean is not affected in the least. Once you feel free to have thoughts coming up without feeling that they’re defining you in any way, a sense of incredible peace will wash over you. Your mind has not changed. You will have realized that you are not your mind.
We are always anxious when we feel that we are not allowed to feel what we are feeling. There is nothing more maddening than being told that our feelings are wrong. How could they ever be wrong? They are just feelings! It’s like saying this one breath you’ve just taken is wrong. How could that be? We have no control over what we feel, just like we have no control over what we think – feelings just appear in us and for us. We might be able to control how we act (if we have enough clarity and are not carried away in the heat of the moment), but we surely have no power to tell a feeling to go back where it came from once it has shown itself.
Imagine being incredibly sad and being with someone who tells you that you are pathetic for it and that you should stop it. You’ll feel your body contracting. Now imagine being just as sad, for the exact same reasons (or lack thereof) as before, but this time you are in the company of someone who tells you: “I know. I understand. I’ve felt exactly the same way before. You can feel sad while I’m here, I don’t mind in the least. Can I make you some tea?” Your body relaxes, and you can breathe freely. We need to become that person for ourselves.
When a feeling comes up, let it wash over you. It is fine. It will have its lifespan and it will disappear, just like all the other feelings you’ve ever had.
But guess what happens if you try to stop it? You’ll keep thinking about it and by thinking about it you’ll reinforce it and keep it alive. Let it just do its course. You don’t have to do anything but letting it be.
Whenever something happens, our reactivity immediately comes into play and we lash out against what hurt us. However, that is rarely the most fruitful course of action. In fact, if we pay close attention, we’ll notice that we are not necessarily reacting to the event in itself, but to how it’s making us feel. If it didn’t affect us emotionally, we would not feel the need to lash out.
Can we just sit down and feel our feelings? Can we look closely at the arrow in our heart, before we take action? Yanking it away won’t do, and it might cause more damage. When we can let our feelings show themselves and come to a place of clarity, we will know what’s best for us and what would truly heal us.
We all want to find ourselves in our final moments knowing that we have lived and loved well, that we have given all we could, and that we have let go of all that needed to be let go. To quote Harold Kushner: “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’” Let every moment count.
Have you ever wondered why people in the East (China and Japan, for example) bow when greeting each other? Sure, it is part of their customs and traditions, but it also does something: it shifts them into an inner place of respect, from where they are able to value the person in front of them.
The way we conduct ourselves will always shift our inner posture, changing the way we interact with the world around us. For example, if you walk around with clenched fists, you’ll find that it will be very difficult for you to feel kindness towards the people around you. Such a small change of attitude can have great consequences.
Try following Thích Nhất Hạnh’s advice and spend a couple of weeks walking as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. Feel it and let yourself go to that inner attitude. You’ll be amazed at how much inside you shifts.
We always think we have time… until we don’t. The truth is, we don’t know when our final moment will come. Ultimately, there’s no way to avoid death.
Here’s a famous Zen story that illustrates this point. “A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!”
Nobody gets out of life alive. But we can always give love and care to what’s in front of us – and enjoy the little moments. Life is always in the present; everything else is just happening in our minds.
We struggle so hard to shape the world exactly the way we want it to be. We’re always trying to change something, to make it better, so that it can bring us happiness. The truth is: we can never succeed. We are not that powerful! Reality is the way it is, and there isn’t much we can do about it. The good news is that we don’t have to change the world to be able to live and act in it comfortably; we only need to pay attention to what is affecting us and how.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t take action against injustice if we feel called to do so, or that we don’t protect the world and each other. But there is a difference. Until we gain clarity, we never respond to the world as it is, we only react to our feelings about the world. That is to say, if we see injustice in the world and we feel angry about it, what we will do from that moment on will be unconsciously geared towards expressing that anger or eliminating its cause.
It won’t have much to do with the issue per se. If we want to be truly effective in the world, we cannot hope to tackle major issues by smashing a hammer on them trying to make us feel better. This is not about how we feel, it’s about what the people or animals we are trying to save and protect feel. And we cannot act effectively if we are blinded by our own emotions. It’s not about what we want, it’s about what they need.
Imagine to take a week off. There is nothing you have to do, nowhere you need to be, nothing you have to change or fight for in the world (just for a week!). Nothing is pressuring you. You sit outside in the sun and close your eyes and enjoy the warmth on your skin, the fresh breeze through your air. In that relaxed state of mind, you close your eyes and listen.
You can do the same now too. You don’t need to take a week off or lie in the sun; you only need to allow yourself to shift to that place of listening where you are not trying to achieve anything or figure out anything. You simply listen. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you hear? No need answer. Don’t put it into words. Listen like you would listen to the sound of the ocean or the rain. There is nothing to figure out. There’s just what is.
Could you ever think two thoughts at the same time? Try it. You’ll find out (with some frustration) that you can’t. Once a thought is at the forefront, the other one will have disappeared somewhere in the back of your mind.
Isn’t it fascinating? The reason you can’t focus on two thoughts at the same time is that what gives thoughts life is your attention, and attention works like the zoom feature on one of your devices. Could you zoom in on two different parts of a picture at the same time? You can’t. That’s the point. You use it to focus your attention on something specific.
That zooming in, that ability to focus on something, is awareness. When we focus our attention on a thought we are using it in a specific way. When it zooms out, or alternatively when attention focuses on itself, thoughts will gradually recede and natural clarity will appear. It was there all along. We were just zooming in on something else.
Not only as a culture we are always looking something, but even spiritual seekers will tell you that, well, they are seekers! We are all moved by the same impulse. Whether we use food, sex, drugs, entertainment, or spirituality to try and quench it, at a certain level what’s moving us is the same. We are all trying to scratch an itch we cannot quite comprehend.
What often takes a long time to figure out is that nothing will soothe it. That itch won’t go away. No satisfying it will help – it will come back. After an insight, we crave another; after a bar of chocolate we want another one, and so on. And no numbing it out will help either, it will still be there – but now on top of that we will feel too disconnected to be able feel it. Many people think that when spiritual teachers say that desire is the source of all our struggles, that means that we need to force ourselves to stop desiring. But that is not what they mean. Desiring to not desire is still a desire. We cannot stop ourselves from wanting.
The seeking only ceases when we realize that nothing we can get or pursue is going to satisfy that itch. Not love, not chocolate, not sex, not drugs, not even God. Nothing. We will keep trying with new things and we will keep failing until we will be so tired and frustrated the only option will be giving it all up. And when everything else has been given up and everything has been stripped away, what remains is what was there all along, what we truly needed and didn’t even have to search for in the first place!
This is why almost everybody’s first reaction when the seeking drops is laughter. I’ve been struggling so much for this? But it was always here!
However, there’s no shortcut to this and no cheating is possible, so we will keep seeking until we’ll spontaneously get it. We cannot fake it until we make it. We cannot make ourselves do it. It can only come from a place of truth – and that’s why mindfulness practices are ultimately useful. Because they teach us to face what’s in front of us without shying away or hiding behind protective barriers.
Once we can face the complete and absolute truth of what we are, right now, at a human level (not a mystical one!), when we can stop running and seeking something different to avoid facing who we are… the seeking will drop away on its own.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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