Was listening on the beach yesterday to a good talk by Joseph Goldstein about four reflections that bring the mind to dharma. These relections are used by Buddhists to become mindful in everyday life. Mindfulness – individual and collective – is a resource in short supply in the world. A lot of the hosting work I do is about bringing more mindful consciousness to what groups are doing. These four reflections are useful in that respect.
From a dharma perspective, the four reflections are:
- Precious human birth
- Contemplation of impermanence
- The law of karma
- Defects of samsara
On their own these are esoteric terms, especially if you are not familiar with the Buddhist world view. But in practice they look like this:
- Be aware of possibility. What is possible right now? What is the gift of the present moment? If we were to think about what we could do right now, what would be the most valuable thing we could do?
- Everything changes. What we are experiencing right now will pass. We cannot know what will come, so we must prepare to be agile rather than prepare to be stable. Can we be as flexible as the changing nature of the world around us? If no, we risk being locked in an old operating system.
- Action brings results. And in a complex system, cause and effect cannot be isolated. Therefore what matters is awareness, and consciousness about what we are doing in every given moment. What are the things we do habitually that get us into trouble? If I intervene in a group now, what effect might that have over the long term? Be aware of motivations and try to stop acting habitually.
- We keep ourselves locked in repeating patterns. What are the patterns and behaviours we need to let go of to free us up for creativity, innovation or real change? What are the things we are doing now that limit us from doing anything differently.
In some workshops I have used these concepts to bring a deeper set of questions to work we are doing. For example, with a group of Native radio stations with whom we were trying to determine their impact, we kicked off a conversation with the question”If you were to disappear tomorrow, what would your community miss?” This dealing with one’s death is a great way to determine the impact you are having now, and it truly leads to a deeper reflection on what is going on.