Cardinal sin five - The unexamined life
The mission of UU A Way Of Life is to improve spiritual health, reduce immoral and sinful behavior, and work across systems for positive societal change. This article is another in a series of articles on reducing immoral and sinful behavior. “Sinful” in the context of the UU A Way Of Life mission statement is defined as mistaken. The mission statement could read, “reducing immoral and mistaken behavior” but the mistakes being referred to are ones that cause spiritual injury and so we use the word “sinful.”.
The fifth component of spiritual health is mindfulness. What is the opposite of mindfulness? It is impulsiveness, compulsiveness, and playing the victim. Are we reactive or responsive? Do we have some idea of what makes us tick? Do we take responsibility for how we manage our thoughts, feelings and behavior or do we, like a leaf on the wind, go whichever way the wind blows?
Mindfulness is a sign of maturity. It is the ability of a person to witness, objectively, and nonjudgmentally, their own functioning cognitively, affectively, psychologically, socially, and behaviorally.
The bumper sticker reads, “The unlived life is not worth examining.” Are we living our lives or wasting them? Too many, unfortunately, are wasted and that’s a sin.
How does one cultivate mindfulness? A person needs to stop their business, or their lethargy. This kind of lethargy is what has been called in spiritual texts “acedia” which in everyday contemporary language is defined as “not giving a shit.” Acedia is a loss of faith and looks to the modern observer like depression, but it is a spiritual conditional more than a psychological condition.
Some people define “mindfulness” as meditation or contemplation. It is a practice of witnessing, objectively and nonjudgmentally our functioning. It is taking stock of our own functioning and works best with an attitude of curiosity where we just watch, review, and let go or surrender. Some people call it “centering.” It is a process of looking inward not outward. This can be done once a day for 15 minutes or every hour for 5 minutes or in an ongoing way as we go about our day.
We can sit on a cushion, find a quiet place, listen to music, take a walk, there are many methods of mediation. It has sometimes been called a “flow” state where we become one with the All.
Some people seem to be “driven.” They are impulsive and compulsive. They are not in control of their own functioning but triggered by external circumstances and phenomena. They are not in control of their own functioning, but are controlled by their environment. The primary ingredient of mindfulness is awareness. The bathroom graffiti reads, “Be alert! The world needs more lerts.”
And so in what do we put our faith? Do we want to know what makes us tick or are we too afraid to slow down, stop, and look within? Unitarian Universalists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. That truth and meaning is to be found not without but within. Our faith is in our own internal, intuitive wisdom which is part of the Universe of existence, not in the triggers on the path of the ego which populate our daily experience.