Here's one thing we no longer need, as we stagger into the 21st century, full of hope and love and fear and anger. We don’t need another book about mindfulness. About how we can learn to observe the phenomena that continually course through our minds. We don’t need another book that encourages us to observe all of that stuff and then be told that this stuff is not only insubstantial but also (and here’s the kicker) has a massive effect on our daily lives and on our capacity for finding a real and lasting happiness.
Many great, helpful, and inspired books on this subject already exist (I can recommend a few if you'd like), and if you want to know why we need to be a little more mindful each day, or how it came to be that we’re only about 1% cognizant of why we’re thinking or believing whatever it is we’re thinking or believing at any given moment, then you need to read one of these books. Or many of these books.
But let's say you haven't read any of these books. I can give you the plot summary, the lay of the land, which should get you sufficiently up to speed to understand the kinds of things I want to add later on to this discussion about mindfulness.
The summary goes like this: the stuff (I’m still using the word “stuff” because to bring in another word now would involve getting into more stuff that I’m reserving for later), the stuff that we carry around in our heads, the stuff that we know is there but can't see, like dark matter, because it generates the questions we ask ourselves obsessively—Am I late? How do I look? Am I smart? Can I run fast? Can I score high marks? Does she think I’m hot? Does he?—this stuff makes us who we are, it causes our problems, it manufactures our joy, it distributes our sadness, and it vertically integrates many of our ideas and feelings without our even knowing it. Without our permission.
And so the things that we like, love, detest, and tolerate are things that often get installed without our authorization. And this happens because this stuff is insubstantial—it’s ghostly. So it’s very difficult to locate and track.
Plus, it moves at the speed of light. Or more accurately at the speed of thought.
To say it another way: we’re not as free as we think we are. Once you have the evidence in hand to understand that statement—and mindfulness delivers the evidence—you’ve gone a long way toward understanding how mindfulness works, and why we need more of it.
And you’ve taken a step or two toward freedom.