Like most people who find their way to mindfulness practice, I did so many years ago in efforts to find more sustainable solutions to dealing with stress as a driven, young attorney in my late twenties. In what was an early incarnation of what is now called mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, I did find that by becoming more mindful of my breath, I could slow down my heart rate. The ability to do this seemed to give me a sense of relief that, up until that time, I may have thought would have only been available from solutions existing outside of myself in the form of food, drink, other people, etc.
I had no awareness or knowledge at that time of any sort of template for living in a way that could potentially transform that sense of relief into deep, sustainable inner peace. Even if such a template had been presented to me at that time, I would have thought it to be so contrary to my priorities that it would have been quickly dismissed.
For years, actually decades, I continued to practice meditation almost solely for the physiological relief it afforded me from the typical stressors of contemporary American life. For a good deal of this time, however, I pretty much continued thinking and acting consistent with conditioning I had internalized through my formative years. This conditioning, I can now appreciate in retrospect, had forged a strong egoic identity that was largely impermeable to the notion that I might look upon life in fundamentally different ways.
But as will often happen as we get older, life has ways of humbling just about everyone. Over time, we amass wisdom of experience that may, at some point, serve to penetrate the ego and open us to new ways of thinking and being in the world. Once this door is opened, we can begin trying new ways of orienting towards life experience. We can begin to let go of maladaptive strategies and behaviors. We can walk out into life with an open sense of wonder and begin to experiment with new ways of being that would have previously been too threatening to the ego.
At this point, through trial and error, as well as with the benefit of wisdom from others who have walked this path over millennia, we can come to identify specific ways of being and acting in the world that actually deepen our inner peace for beyond stress relief. What is most amazing, though, is finding that those ways of being and behaving that most foster inner peace are actually those ways of being and behaving that help others, make the world more compassionate, promote health and well-being, reduce waste, promote sustainability, constructively resolve conflict, etc.
Even as an experienced practitioner, however, I encounter times when my conditioning, together with societal norms, cause me to question the purpose or value of sustaining a spiritual practice beyond “stress reduction.” After all, much of what is required is contrary to behaviors that are “valued” in contemporary American society.
The answer to this question, though, I have come to view as the ultimate win/win scenario. What I have found is that the behaviors and ways of being in the world that help others and actually treat the world in a far more sustainable way are actually the behaviors that provide me with inner peace and clarity. When venturing out into the world with this foundation, life becomes far more interesting as behavior is not driven and limited by egoic notions of how life “should” be.
To learn more about the benefits of mindfulness practice, especially as applied to legal disputes and conflict resolution, please contact Licensed Psychotherapist and Attorney Michael Lubofsky at (415) 508-6263, or visit https://www.lawyertherapist.com.