The notion of focusing on the present moment is the essence of mindfulness practice. But, there are actually three forms of mindfulness; present moment awareness, ethical awareness of the present and spiritual awareness of the present. Contemplative practice as it is taught in the west often focuses exclusively on present moment awareness. In previous posts
we discussed the second kind of mindfulness; ethical awareness of the present. Today’s essay will focus on the third type; mindfulness suffused with spiritual awareness.
It is important in this regard for us to realize that contemplative practice can lead to spiritual development and awakening. This to some extent requires faith. But, we can look to myriad spiritually realized beings who have preceded us as models of what is possible. We can see in the lives of the Buddha, Jesus, the mystics, and many, many, present day realized beings that spiritual revelation is not only possible but occurs frequently and is available to those who seek it with devotion and sincerity.
Once it is understood that spiritual development is available we must begin to approach contemplative practice from a spiritual perspective. Our mindfulness practice needs to be purposeful. It should be approached with an intention to move toward spiritual development and any action that moves us in that direction should be followed while any that lead away or only toward secular goals should be abandoned.
There is a need to understand that we have within us the awakened nature that was evidenced in the Buddha and Jesus. In our contemplative practice we should seek that awakened nature. The teachings are clear that development of present moment awareness and ethical understanding of our actions are the first steps. Next we need to develop what the Buddha called “right view.” This begins to develop as a recognition develops that what is being sought is already there. It is present in all of us all of the time. We simply need to strive to remove all of those things that are keeping it from it emerging into our awareness.
It is difficult and takes time and practice to move from an intellectual understanding to an experienced reality that we are awareness itself. We are not the experience, but what is having the experience, We are what is looking out through our eyes, what is listening through our ears, and what is feeling, smelling, tasting. It is deep, permanent, and has always been there, we have just become so accustomed to it that we don’t see it. In fact, Jesus states in the gospels that “the kingdom of heaven is spread upon the earth but man does not see it.” The development of spirituality in mindfulness is how we can begin to move towards seeing it.
It should be clear that there is much more than simply being mindful of the present momnt. Actions have consequences and without proper mindful appreciation of those consequences the practice of mindfulness is without a compass to guide actions. Ultimately, we are spiritual beings. Without recognition of how spirituality is present right here, right no, our existence becomes shallow, without meaning or purpose. But with recognition that the present moment is spiritual, life can unfold with deep understanding and meaning. It is clear that the reintegration ethics and spirituality into mindfulness is vital. We need to make our practice focus on the present moment with awareness of its ethical and spiritual nature for us to experience the full power of mindfulness.
So, develop mindfulness, but ethical and spiritual mindfulness as well, be skillful and grow, thrive, and discover the truth of what you really are.