Aspen Public Radio, April 14, 2016

The Habit of Attention

Make a Move to Inner Sustainability

Are you working for meaningful change in our world, dedicated to make our world better? Do you find yourself trying to make much needed change, perhaps against seemingly insurmountable odds? For 20 years, I worked in sustainable building, starting by wearing my tool belt on a jobsite, but always looking for the next way to make bigger impacts and more accelerated change. Eventually, the journey led me to travel widely, speak at a Congressional briefing and testify at national building code hearings. Part of what I learned in the process was not about sustainable building at all. It was that inner sustainability is the most important element of being able to do your outer work, no matter what it is.

Terry Tempest Williams, a well-known author, in a talk to college students, asked them to consider as they moved into their chosen careers not what they can do, but who are they becoming in the process. As we work for positive change, in whatever realm we find ourselves, it’s an essential consideration. Inner sustainability includes resilience, a deep sense of inner well-being, and the ability to make healthy choices. Some on the front lines of change are discovering that they can cultivate inner sustainability with the tools of mindfulness.

Mindfulness help us to reconnect our attention and intention, that alignment that often gets watered down or lost altogether over the long haul, even for those as committed to meaningful change as you or I. While we may start out with strong and clear intentions based on our values, there are many things that can derail us or distract us, and many reasons we may become distanced from them. Mindfulness can be described as a state of non-forgetfulness, as in not forgetting what is most meaningful to us and acting in alignment with that.

Genuine happiness, that inner flourishing that allows us to be resilient in our outer work, does not come from other people, activities or things. It comes from living a meaningful life – a life that is in alignment with your values, your deepest intentions and is beneficial to yourself, others and the world. When we practice mindfulness, we remember what is meaningful to us, what our values are, moment to moment, day to day. This is what allows us to show up in a way we feel good about then and later. It helps us to see that the outcomes of our work and efforts ultimately have less impact on us in the end than how we did our work, and whether we interacted with others and acted in and reacted to situations in a way that we can look back on and feel at peace with. It also allows us to grasp the unsustainability of chasing outcomes to the detriment of our own well-being and inner sustainability.

A meaningful life is lived with both attention and intention. If we don’t cultivate attention, good luck staying focused on our intention, remembering it, and calling it to mind, especially in the midst of a busy day or demanding challenges. Just as intention without action doesn’t get us far, having an intention, but not being able to attend to it, call it to mind, have the presence of mind to act on it also does not get us too far. That is why attention is the first of the four key areas of mindfulness, along with values, wisdom and an open heart. Mindfulness is much more than present moment awareness, as you may commonly hear as a description. It includes and enables the cultivation of concentration, wisdom and the ability to make healthy choices that nurture genuine happiness and a meaningful life.

Wanting to live more sustainably, and make the world a better place, we need to be our best selves and personally sustainable, with both mental and emotional balance, present in the moments of our lives and able to respond skillfully. Mindfulness is foundational to making the world a better place, by starting with yourself.

– Laura Bartels

Mindfulness in Recovery

The Vision of the Mindfulness in Recovery Program- April, 2016

John Bruna to Speak at Google, Facebook and BookExpo America – April, 2016