The reason for cultivating mindfulness is simple – to be happy. All human beings want to be happy, and it is this desire that motivates what we do, where we do it, and who we do it with. Unfortunately, as sophisticated as the human brain is, eons of evolution have bred a mind finally honed for survival but not necessarily for happiness. In fact, one of our greatest strengths, our ability to think and reflect and anticipate, can also be our greatest source of suffering. Our thinking mind often removes us from what’s actually happening in the present moment, as the gift of reflection and anticipation turns dark with regret and fear, and as the gift of discernment turns to relentless judgment of ourselves, others, and everything else.
The story goes that when the famous prince turned mendicant seeker, finally achieved full enlightenment, and became the Buddha, (which means in Sanskrit – the awakened one) he looked out onto the whole world and saw countless people yearning to be happy, and yet all doing the very thing that was leading them further from happiness.
What is this thing that humans do which leads us away from happiness? While countless pages have been written on this subject, to put it simply, it comes down to the habitual tightening of our minds. Whether it be grasping onto some idea of how things should be instead of being present with the reality of how things actually are, or clinging onto some pleasant experience despite the unavoidable fact that all experiences are by their very nature, fleeting and impermanent, or whether it’s pushing away and resisting unpleasant experiences that cannot actually be changed, our minds tighten, our bodies tighten, and we suffer, and happiness eludes our grasp. And if we weren’t so busy grasping we would realize that happiness cannot be grasped, but only appears when we let go and open to things as they are, right here, and right now. The cultivation of mindfulness meditation helps to reorient us in our relationship to life. We stop acting like rats, step off of the wheel to nowhere, and let go in to the inherent peace, ease and happiness available to us all.