The 3 Pillars of Mindful Living

Presence.  Acceptance.   Compassion.

That’s it.   Pretty easy right?   Yes, and no.

As I prepare for our Mindful Order of Being Workshop week after next I realize how the concepts are indeed easy to understand. Putting them into practice in this world today … that’s another story.   Let’s explore.

Presence is more acutely defined as “being present”. Meaning be in the very moment you are in.     If you are eating a meal, you simply eat. If you are driving to work, drive.   The alternative to being present would be eating your meal while watching your favorite reality show and checking Facebook or Instagram.   Or driving while listening into a conference call, all the while your mind is ruminating on the last email your boss sent you.

Get it?   Great!

So the question becomes, why is it so important to be present?   What’s wrong with being efficient, multi-tasker or letting our mind wander abit?

Well, as a famous philosopher once said, “A wandering mind is an unhappy one”.

The mind wandering is the root cause of anxiety and stress. The uncontrolled urge to worry about a future event that hasn’t (and most times never will) happened causes deep unrest and physiological outbreaks of acme, ulcers and even cancer. Then there’s ruminating on past events and endless negative cycles of harmful thoughts about a past incident or person.   As we dwell here, we are blocking our mind getting to it’s natural and normal state of peace. Yes, happiness and peace is our default state.

So we must work diligently to gain presence in every possible moment.     Breath & meditating are the main avenues to cultivate such in a mindful living practice.

There is one more key aspect to Presence. And that’s the outcome of being present creates great inter-personal “Presence”. In other words, when you are there in the moment with another person or group your calm “Presence” is felt in a strong and very positive way.   Some may call it confidence.   But it radiates and creates amazing dynamic with those you are interacting with at that moment.


“Accept what is”… a common refrain heard today. Can you accept the “Is-ness” of life. As it stands. As it is. In the shape, form and manifestation it’s been given to you?

First and foremost accepting the imperfection of this thing we call life. In the Buddhist text, it’s referred to as acceptance of suffering.   Meaning, accept that fact that you (and the world) suffers. And that accepting it is the first step toward opening the mind towards cessation of your suffering.

Accept you are not happy. Accept that work is stressing you out. Accept you are not the perfect parent, friend or colleague… just accept it.     It is what is. And it’s your minds constant battle with it that causes the duration and depth of pain. Not the actual event or person itself. So lay down your arms and just accept it.

“I’ve encountered a lot of challenges in my life. Only half we’re real” – Mark Twain

Once you accept life as it is. Then one can work towards having a calm, clear mind and allow all the moment by moment joy created from presence enter in, unfettered.

Acceptance also ties to non-judgment. Not judging yourself nor judging others. This is very hard to do. And never a perfect practice, but we must strive to see all things with as little judgment as possible. When we remove judgment and labeling of things as good or bad. Fun or boring. Cool or “D” we are creating mental constructs that are a major obstacle to acceptance. An obstacle to the ever present now, and your happiness.

As Eckart Tolle once wrote, “Let life be. Leave it Alone”. 

A word that evokes some true contemplation.   For me, compassion struck me as a more weak, feminine word that was hard part of my own unraveling stage.   But after looking long and hard, it is the right word. And one we must embrace.. albeit not so sexy in modern day society.

Modern day society wants winners.   Wants big success.   Wants stories of the self-made man/woman and how they overcame all obstacles.   And yet, those stories are not the one’s worthy our praise.   It’s the leaders of compassion, Ghandi, MLK, Thicht Naht Hanh, Mandela that we gravitate towards in the end. They have the traits we seek most. And those traits stem from their deep compassion.

So what is compassion. First, it starts with empathy.   Empathy meaning we feel strong emotional ties to those needing our concern. We can have deep empathy for the homeless, the person who lost a loved one or just our friend having a hard time at work.   But compassion, needs more than the feeling. It is the action of empathy. So we become compassionate when we take action on our empathy and buy a meal for the homeless, spend the night with person who so needs our company, listen and give valuable time to those in need.

If wee seek to understand and empathize with our peers or adversaries and simply come from a place or clear understanding., we will remove our personal filters and judgment, thus let’s us see the world as it is.

When we have more clarity to see things as they are, we make better decisions and have a deeply more fulfilling life.

Come from the lens of compassion, and all things are possible.

In the end, combining presence with acceptance and all areas of life through a lens of compassion, you will see what joy a mindful life can bring.      Cultivating these practices through meditation, awareness and mindful living programs will make achieving such an outcome possible.

I look forward to teaching our next Introduction to Mindful Living workshop on December 2nd and diving deep into these 3 Pillars of Mindfulness.


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