On this weekend that celebrates U.S. independence, I’m thinking about the foundation for true independence, a condition of much deeper freedom.
Mindfulness, I believe, is that foundation. When we allow ourselves to be mindful, to observe what goes on both within and without, we declare independence from the ego, who wants to tell us what we should notice.
The ego has a declaration of dependence in that its survival depends on noticing only what threatens or enhances its survival. It filters its observations through a thick veil of fear: that it won’t win, won't come out at top. It fears that it will land at the bottom. It fears its extinction.
Some observe that the ego acts like a child, a child who has lost its innocence, who has learned the adults it counted on for survival are also vulnerable and fearful. This child has also learned that to relax, to be in the present, to see without survival filters, is dangerous.
As a result, early attempts at reaching a state of mindfulness may, instead, bring up resistance from the ego, who doesn’t want us to see beyond it to the childhood experiences and decisions that created it.
Thich Nhat Hanh often says to smile at negative emotions. “I smile to my anger. I embrace my anger as if it were a crying baby.”
The first step in a declaration of independence from the past is to smile to our resistance. When we do this, it softens, little by little, and when we are ready to know the answers about how we became who we are, our deepest truth will speak.
The practice of mindfulness is a journey, and each step gives us a greater level of independence. This is true cause for fireworks.