Moods, Attitudes, & Skillful Action

A brief reminder of our freedom and how to recover it when we don’t feel so free. I include a 2-minute video that you may find inspiring.

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Moods befall us. We awaken some days and feel rested and upbeat. On other days, we are awakened by preoccupations that have busied our minds during sleep and leave us anxious or downcast. These states are not chosen. Indeed, they may even feel imposed, an immovable burden we must suffer.

But our moods are states. They may linger and lift our spirits, or they may oppress and elicit a retreat even as the day is just dawning. These states affect and are affected by attitude. Attitudes are a more stable, conditioning aspect of mind. They can be invoked simply by calling into question and noticing the impermanence of our present mood, affect, and attitude. We then notice that mind both suffers and authors its experience.

Attitudinal shifts, prompted by awareness of impermanence, arise in acts of reflection, which are attentional acts of mind. We need not even predetermine where our attention will go. We need only raise a question about our current thoughts, feelings, and attitude. Any grasping (stubborn attachments) or hindrances (feelings of fear, desperation, or escapist wishes) will loosen their grip. A non-judging state of equanimity emerges.

If we don’t easily achieve this shift as a learned skill – for the grip can be strong – we might (as the Buddha suggested) enlist the help of our body and breath. Mind does little without the vitalizing impetus of breath. For each mood there is a mode of breath - rapid and shallow for anxiety, slower and deeper when calm. So, if we focus on our breath in an upright posture that opens our chest, and slows and deepens our breathing, our mind can be emptied of preoccupations, untethered from worries.

We were “engineered” to perform this kind of mind-altering act. It is a practice in which we can become skillful. In its barest form it’s simply mindful breathing. Knowing this, you may, even without cultivating a formal meditation practice, start your day with a few moments of mind-shifting breath. Rediscover your mind and body in their barest form. Then start afresh. Doing this once or twice during the day can help too.

But I promised a brief video, didn't I? Watch it and listen. And as you listen, consider what truth it reveals for you: "How is this relevant for me?" Notice how it makes a question of your personal practices, how your practices help or hinder you, how they are skillful or unskillful (increase or decrease your suffering): What is Your Practice?