Basic mindfulness practice tends to focus on polarized moments. When the shit is hitting the fan, mindfulness – when applied – rises above the pit of worry and angst that would otherwise make things worse. It is what it is, and to be with it in the moment is to live it as it is, nothing more. When shot with an arrow, first remove the arrow. But what then? And when everything is perfect, mindfulness provides recognition and enjoyment of what life has to offer, allowing whatever happiness is found to become meaningful and deeply appreciated. But such joy is exceedingly fleeting. And what then?
How does mindfulness apply to that space between, those times when life just moves along without much notice. This is when its too easy to let mindfulness go. Buddha classified the human response to experience into three categories of like, dislike and neutral. The neutral is often the hardest part of life to pin down as it doesn’t call out for a response. It just slides by like a lazy summer river.
Mindfulness diligently applied to these neutral moments can show more and more refined levels of like and dislike, making neutral moments increasingly rare. Without careful attention, a very minor dislike may not trigger the response that one catches with mindfulness as negative. And simple or ordinary joy may not be appreciated as such with sufficient attention.
With consistent application of mindfulness, something unexpected happens. The continued refinement of like and dislike, and the replacement of these reactions with equanimity, results in increasing frequency of neutral moments. This is the goal of mindfulness, and equanimity is associated with the end goal of Buddhist practice.
For me, this post is a reminder to pay attention during those days when it hasn’t rained in a while, and the river of life is sauntering on, unnoticed.