Cultivating a Mindfulness Practice

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Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson

We often use the word cultivate when talking about mindfulness practice. In this context, we are referring to the cultivation of beneficial qualities that allow our practice to grow into a more skillful way of being in the world.

In gardening, cultivation involves making the ground fertile through refining the soil – making space for strong roots to grow, removing weeds that threaten to overwhelm the intended crop, and providing nourishment so that the seeds we are planting are more likely to germinate, mature, and bear fruit. When we think of it in this way, we can see that cultivation really means “caring for” or “taking care”.

Cultivating a practice means caring for it. It would be foolhardy to just throw a bunch of random seeds on the ground and expect a bountiful garden to result. In the same way, we need to be intentional about our practice if we want it to be of some benefit. This involves creating a strong foundation for its growth, such as:

  • seeking the guidance of experienced teachers
  • setting aside time and space for practice
  • developing a consistent routine
  • surrounding ourselves with people who support our efforts
  • remembering why we are practicing; how it supports our deepest values

Yet it’s not entirely up to us whether our efforts come to fruition. Just like a farmer, we can’t control all the factors – the weather (sunshine, humidity, rain), diseases, the actions of other beings, natural disasters. If we focus too much on the outcome, we may become discouraged and prematurely abandon our efforts. It’s important to remember that tomorrow’s joys and challenges become the beneficiaries of today’s practice. So, when we direct our efforts to what’s actually within our sphere of influence, creating the best possible conditions given the circumstances, we may find the courage to persevere – and the seeds we have planted have a better chance of bearing fruit.

The focus is what is right before you – to give it your best. It sows the seeds of tomorrow. – Kiran Bedi

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