I prescribe to the idea that our learning is never done. Truth is, I love to be a participant at a workshop as much as I enjoy teaching. Every year I immerse myself in a week-long experience where I become the student again, opening myself up to growth and transformation.
Cultivating fresh ideas and applying them to your life is good for the mind and body and the soul. Not only does it broaden our perspective, but it literally produces new neuro pathways in the brain. Science shows us that our brains have what’s called neuroplasticity for our whole lives, and, what’s really cool about that is that science now shows that our brains rewire at any age. (Turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks!)
I just got home from The Esalen Institute in Big Sur where I attended a course on mindfulness, offered by my good friend Dr. Shauna Shapiro. Nestled on the cliffs, high above the ocean, Esalen proved to be a nurturing place of retreat. Seated on the floor amidst other participants, listening intently with a total blank slate in my head, I like to be a sponge without expectation when I learn. What amazes me is that it’s never too late to hit refresh on your internal data page and bring renewal into your life by being inspired to grow.
The nuggets of wisdom I soaked up from Shauna were prolific, and they tie so beautifully in this idea of what’s new and fresh—so perfect for Spring as the wild poppies bloom over the California Coastline.
You see, mindfulness as a topic is common for me; it’s one of my sweet spots. But learning about the practice from a new voice, in a new setting, with a new openness in my heart was powerfully informative, and I consider Shauna the fresh face of Mindfulness.
Did you know that in Japanese, “mindfulness” means “heartfulness?” And in fact, “mindfulness” simply means “to see clearly.”
So what if this “seeing clearly”—this mindfulness—could be a way of life?
As you see clearly and live with the intention of bringing kindness and curiosity to all that you have within your field of attention—meaning every situation you encounter—what you practice grows stronger.
Mindfulness is all about practice.
And really, life is like a sport. You have to practice it the way you wish to live it. Paying attention is about being present—and intention is taking a stand for yourself to live life with focus and deep engagement in the present moment. In this marriage of attention and intention lies the beauty of learning new things. When we set our eyes on new things, the mind is required to focus. No more monkey mind, no more living on “autopilot” sleep walking through our days.
And with this intentional “seeing clearly” comes compassion for ourselves and others. I have learned many ways to practice spreading loving-kindness to all corners of the planet, and it starts with how I posture my heart.
Mindfulness as a way of life brings with it peace and contentment. It’s with an eye on that same goal that Richard and I have written all of our books.
As I sat and listened to Shauna’s talk, and practiced her loving kindness meditations, I realized that the principles of happiness that Richard and I have been teaching all these years train people in living mindfully and with a vibrancy that produces inner peace and calm. And now, decades after his first book was published, science proves it’s all true. It still amazes me what a pioneer he was in the field of psychology sometimes.
The practice of meditation, much like learning, primes you to place your attention on the present moment, where you can awaken a childlike curiosity. What could be better than that?
I am always a student, and I encourage you to be too, my friend. For I am convinced that the practice of learning goes hand in hand with a mindful, compassionate life that inspires growth and meaning. As you train your mind and practice what’s good for your brain, you will open yourself to living with a feeling that is more awake—that brings vibrancy even to the small, daily ordinary things that become quite extraordinary as you live your most vibrant life with the intention of mindfulness.