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Buddhism is probably one of the fastest growing spiritual traditions in North America due in part to its effectiveness as a method for achieving peace and tranquility in the midst of the stormy times in which we live. Like any other major religion in the world, there are many branches of Buddhism, each offering different practices and areas of emphasis.
In my work, I cultivate what I consider to be two of the most practical benefits of Buddhist Practice: non-attachment and mindfulness. Non-attachment is not equivalent to being "detached," nor is it about turning our backs to the world. Non-attachment is about accepting life as being "impermanent"—that is, life in a constant state of flux. It is natural to desire, embrace, and to aspire to keep all the things we need to feel safe and happy, as long as we do not feel entitled to anything or expect things to last forever.
When we learn not to obsess over the things we have lost or the things we wish to have, we can better appreciate the things we actually have today, as insignificant as they may seem. Concentrating on these gifts can enlarge the only reality we can count on—the present. When we focus on the present, it actually reveals so many things we do not see when we become absorbed in thinking about the past or the future.
Mindfulness is the art of opening the eyes to the here and now so that we can feel fully alive and grateful for the world as is. Mindfulness is like taking a break from all the afflictions we experience from the scars of the past and our worries for the future.
Being absorbed by the here and now is actually a soothing experience, even when this reality is one of pain, because we might be able to relieve the mind from the burden of attempting to change something it does not have the power to change yet. In essence, mindfulness is the Buddhist way of creating an internal "psychic womb" in which to feel safe from the burdens of living.
Being nurtured by the state of being-in-the-present is what give us the strength, the wisdom, and the clarity to take action when it is time to take action. There is simply something transforming about seeing the world without being stuck in our thoughts or feelings, without using names or labels to describe it, or without wanting to do something to it.
Perhaps it is the way we deconstruct the mind from its present conditioning as we immerse ourselves into the here and now, and consequently, allowing the possibility of a different perception of reality. To encounter "nothingness" (the dismantling of the world as we have learned to recognize it), is the act of venturing into a "spiritual" reality that was never apart from us. We were simply too blind to see it.
"Being" is experiencing life in its natural state of flux where everything, including our pain and suffering, passes by. Like sitting peacefully and safely on the bank of a river, we observe the "waters" of life constantly moving and changing. In them, our thoughts, feelings, memories, visions, and fantasies are also carried by the current, and when we feel regenerated again, we become ready to rejoin our own reality and participate in its unfolding.
In the therapeutic process, I encourage my clients to take such breaks from time to time through breathing, sitting, or walking meditation. These are small breaks that with practice can turn into a way of living.