Mindfulness protects us from defaulting to un-wise states of mind like anger, frustration, and greed, and helps us re-wire the mind to default to wise states of mind like wisdom and compassion. Which makes us happier, more likeable, and more effective. Here’s how.
About a year ago I saw two cars that I really liked. Whenever I saw those cars on the road, I could feel how much I wanted one of them. I could actually feel in my body how much I just wanted a new car.
But I really couldn’t afford a new car. Or at least not those cars.
Mindfulness protected me. It kept me alert to the fact that “wanting a new car,” was just that: the Wanting Mind. You know that Wanting Mind: it’s the Mind that wants a second piece of cake, or another drink. Or the win, or to tell someone off, or, like me, just wants a new car.
“Wanting” is an incredibly powerful state of mind. Mindfulness helps you see it as just that – a state of mind. Without mindfulness, you miss the emotions…and find yourself at their mercy. Anger, regret, frustration, revenge – they all come to dinner and mostly they stay, unless you can see that they’re there.
Mindfulness trains you to see when desire or anger is your driving force, or has you by the throat. Then, your innate wisdom can come into play. If you’re speaking and acting with less wisdom than you’d like, it’s probably because there are unconscious states of mind that are driving your words or actions. And as Carl Jung said, “until you make the unconscious, conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Mindfulness gives you a chance to do better. Rather than following your heart/mind (they’re the same, say the contemplative neuroscientists), which is probably as unconsciously negative as the next guy’s, you can train your heart/mind. You can notice unconscious, un-wise states of mind, and you can also notice wise states of mind, like patience, generosity, and kindness.
And then you can simply (not easily, at first, but simply), incline the mind in the direction of the wise states of mind, and away from the un-wise states of mind.
So mindfulness protects you, first, by training you to see your unconscious states of mind, and then, second, by giving you the ability to cultivate your own wisdom. Which will eventually become your default mode.
Mindfulness is a great protector. In the fast-paced, conflict-driven world of the law, it might be the very best.