Each Moment of Mindfulness

March 10, 2014
I’ve been thinking a lot about conditioning lately. How we’re conditioned by our genetics, our families, our schools, our cultures, the environments in which we were raised, and the environments in which we choose to spend our lives. They’re all part of the whole.
What are the filters through which we see the world? What are our default responses? What is the content of our internal monologue? Mindfulness practice is the process of stepping out of the center of our thoughts, seeing what’s there, and pausing to ask “is this true, am I sure?” Stepping aside allows us to see our conditioning, understand its effects, recognize the positive and deliberately let go of those aspects that are not in our best interest. It’s hard work and takes persistence, patience, compassion and curiosity.
Sylvia Boorstein says that each moment of mindfulness erases a moment of conditioning. As we train in paying attention and practice noticing, we see our thoughts and how they string and weave together to make a pattern, our fabric. As we see these patterns, we get to know the emotions and feelings they trigger. And from there we become more and more skillful in how we respond.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning
How many times have we all heard about how we’re acting just like one of our parents? It’s so easy to immediately take this as an insult and think “Oh no!” But maybe it’s really a good thing, a compliment. I have characteristics of both of my parents and I hope that I’ve been able to develop the ones that are a blessing and let go of the ones that don’t fit how I want to live. This is how mindfulness erases conditioning.
And to the conditioning of beauty…
“My mother would say to me ‘You can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you.’ And these words played and bothered me until I realized that beauty wasn’t a thing that I could acquire or consume. It was something that I just had to be. And what my mother meant when she said ‘You can’t eat beauty’ was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion – for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul, [from this] we get to the deeper business of being beautiful…and there is no shade in that beauty.”

-Lupita Nyong’o, at her acceptance speech for Best Breakthrough Performance, Black Women in Hollywood luncheon.