The second stage of Mindfulness is Active Efforts toward Divine Love. These attributes include:
Spiritual Community: Buddha said, “Right association is the precursor of the eightfold path.” When we are not around people with whom we can share our spiritual intention, it is hard to maintain focus. There is a sense of aloneness; but being able to share in community is a great blessing. When we have that, we are very enthusiastic, because we know how alone the journey has been. We have gratitude for community, for sharing, however perfect or imperfect it is.
Prayer and Meditation: Spiritual masters across traditions express the virtue of intensive prayer or meditation practice. Gandhi said that the most powerful aspect of his life—the thing that changed everything—was ceaseless prayer. This is an amazing statement. There is an energetic consequence of prayer and meditation that positively affects body, mind and spirit. Of course, not everyone will have a formal practice. Some may prefer walking as a meditation; others find reading a spiritual text or dancing to be a form of prayer. Through whatever means, expressing one’s connection to the source of life is healing.
Spiritual Work: We all wish it were easy, but it takes work, attention, tears, and laughter to grow spiritually. Yet, even the difficult moments are joyful because they help us develop wisdom and strength of spirit that no one can take away. Worldly success cannot match the achievement of spirit. The greatest human award is without power if one has not found the meaning of love and peace. For the most part, the spiritual life is hidden and often the holiest people are unrecognized. Yet, in their depth they have achieved something for God, they are climbing a mountain toward holiness. The seriousness of the mindful life reorders priorities. You have to prepare to be alone because no one may join or know you.
Solitude: Another effort toward mindfulness is making provisions for solitude and for silence—to be disengaged from the demands of the world, and to practice a kind of creative monotony. For monastics, praying seven times a day, chanting the liturgy of the hours, or practicing zazen can become monotonous. And yet, what I notice in the most peaceful of monks is a kind of reverence for monotony, even when they have heard, for example, a particular scripture passage hundreds of times over the years. As contemporary Americans, we do not like monotony. We like diversity. We like a million possibilities, a million distractions, but to recite a passage from scripture or to sit in quiet contemplation or to be struck by rapt attention affects the physiology of the body, mind and spirit. Such attentiveness has a beauty to it that affects a tangible fragrance in the soul, when one’s day is ordered toward true happiness, and not transient happiness.
Happiness: No doubt you are aware of the difference between the happiness that comes from doing what is spiritually right, from the material happiness you get when you buy or accomplish something. These are different levels of happiness. Discernment is all about distinguishing the difference between deep interior happiness and material or superficial happiness. We are so habituated to seeking material happiness that we often dismiss or reject spiritual happiness. It is offered and we reject it. It is available to practice in the simplest and most humble ways, and we dismiss it. To find true happiness takes the courage of allowing the Divine to show us the way. It requires that we relinquish transient forms of happiness in order to discover a deeper freedom that only Spirit can reveal.
Celebration: Mindfulness is not a chore. It is about celebrating our communion and contemplating divine goodness, mercy, and love. The active effort that we make toward celebration of the sacred is not a substitute for secular life. It is not an imitation of the spiritual life in the secular life, but rather the deep soul rest that is the purview of the true monk. We tend to think that mindfulness is something that we are going to jam into our regular life. We cannot imitate kindness and consideration and continue to be as busy, fragmented, and crazy as we were before. Spirituality is not supposed to be another thing added onto everything else we are doing. Rather, it is a deep desire to find true rest, which is an experience of resting with God. When do we allow our souls to rest in the Divine? Most of us never rest, because our spirits are distracted, divided among too many interior tensions.
Opening the Heart: Just as we realize that the spirit offers a different kind of happiness than that provided by the accumulation of material things, similarly we recognize that the love we have for the Divine may be different than what we think love is or should be. When we discover our love for the Divine, then we realize the potentiality for love in all our relations, and in all of life’s moments. Mindfulness becomes then an intense longing to be faithful to the love that has been given as a gift and an unceasing adoration of the divine heart that lifts everyday activities up to their incandescence.
Discipline: Mindfulness is the ordering of our lives according to what we know to be true. There is a wonderful passage in the Book of Sirach (6:18-20, 26-28) that describes discipline as the mother of all virtues. When we are disciplined, that is the order of the universe. The passage from Sirach refers to an interior discipline, not the discipline that is harsh and imposed from outside, but the spiritual discipline that is in line with the life of the divine. Nature is disciplined. Trees, for example, do not pull up their roots declaring, “I don’t want to be a tree!” This may seem silly and ridiculous, but in a way you can see the discipline of nature. The tree practices stability. The tree is a practice of stability. It is rooted in a particular place for the duration of its existence as a tree. So the tree is actively practicing stability. It is also practicing unconditional receptivity because it is taking in whatever comes to it sun, rain, insects that bore holes in its bark, birds that make nests in its branches. In the book of nature, we encounter the ordering of the mind of God. We as human beings have the free will to be disordered, but the degree of our order and discipline is part of our participation in the divine nature. The act of ordering is important.