Be mindful today #26 Mindfulness and the cultural environment

The mindfulness quote below from Steve Jobs is in many respects absolute “tosh”! Well that won’t win me many likes or new followers to my site, but read on and I’ll try and convince you:

If you try to calm the mind, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline, you have to practise it.”

Steve Jobs
Be mindful but ……….. the clock is watching you!

It is my absolute belief, and my experience, that attempts at living a life of mindfulness without a supporting cultural environment AND an ethical based belief system is doomed to frustration and failure! You cannot achieve and sustain a life of mindfulness if you are a slave to your phone, twitter, facebook, Instagram, tv dinners, yada yada. People walk around town, cross the street, wait in line for coffee ……. while texting, tweeting, reading emails etc. One of the classic non mindful examples is of folks in a gym, on a bike or treadmill, with earphones in! Think about it …… isn’t this a time to be completely mindful of your body, your heartbeat, your breathing? Shouldn’t you be paying attention to those things? Isn’t that what mindfulness is, paying attention?

Each of those examples I have given typifies the cultural environment in which ALL of us inhabit in the Western World; the need to keep up with social media, to be on-trend, to keep ahead of the emails, to create a desirable body shape but be distracted from the pain of achieving it, to shovel down dinner while catching up on the latest Soaps so as not to be “behind” tomorrow morning in the office gossip. It’s incessant.

Having spent many months across my life in Kathmandu I know just what it’s like to live in a different cultural environment, one which is slower, one which is more spiritually driven rather than being driven by the need to keep up with and via technology. Nepalese people eat family meals together, “the old” are respected, engaged with and cared for, different religions are seamlessly tolerated, the whole pace of life is so much slower…….. walking, working, thinking ….. This is an environment in which mindfulness is in-built, so much so that you don’t even notice it ….. or is that a non sequitur?

Categories: Buddha

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10 replies

  1. Ohhh, you know, like the Buddha did: 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Namaste’ my friend.

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  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I agree that you must have a “supporting cultural environment AND an ethical-based belief system” to live a life of mindfulness. The retreat my wife and I went on last month to Panama opened our eyes to that. Their culture is based on family time. No one works on the weekends. They have an incredible social life with family and neighbors. They help each other and care for the elderly. We were “warned” of their slow pace by ex-pats that have lived there for some time. It wasn’t meant in a derogatory way but as a compliment and to respect it. My wife and I have chosen to live such a life. Our home is on the market. We’ve decided to make a life change in hopes of living a life of mindfulness. I’m hoping this will be our Kathmandu. Thank you for this wonderful post.

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    • Thank you for your wonderful comment Vic, I can remember my first ever trip to Kathmandu in 1983 and the staggering effect it had on me. Our children too were positively affected despite being only 8 and 6 years old. My Nepalese wife and I are a bit old for lengthy visits these days but it has become easier to live a slow paced mindful life in our retirement. Good luck with your life change, do write about it regularly 🙏🕉

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      • Thank you, DrB. My wife loved her work as a family service counselor in the funeral industry. That changed drastically when the family-owned business sold out to a money-hungry corporation. She’s ready to retire now. I will write about our experiences. Peace and love.

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  3. Thank you, Dr B, for your provocative post and specific statement: “It is my absolute belief, and my experience, that attempts at living a life of mindfulness without a supporting cultural environment AND an ethical based belief system is doomed to frustration and failure!”

    Taking refuge in a teacher, their teachings AND a community of sincere practitioners is a recommended combination for realizing the benefits of mindfulness. Thank you for reminding us, thank you for your “wake up” call.

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  4. Totally agree with you there. On my daily walks I pass a big gym with glass windows and I always smirk at the people on treadmills with their earphones on. I get to enjoy nature, wildlife, free of charge, I can pay attention to what surrounds me and what’s inside me. Rain or shine. It’s so simple, but because nobody makes any money out of it, it doesn’t get promoted.

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