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​​​The Entrance to Inner Harmony

Inner harmony is the spontaneous outcome of removing from our mind the learned mental formations or conditionings that we develop from uncontrolled cravings and aversions. Anxiety-and-stress—what the Buddha called 'suffering'—is the set of negative feelings generated by cravings for what we lack, and aversions to what imaginarily or actually surrounds us.

Inner harmony is the absence of suffering. When we manage cravings and aversions, anxiety-and-stress disappears and inner harmony blossoms. Mindfulness, the permanent awareness of our life as it unfolds, is the path to eliminate suffering. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that strengthens our faculty of awareness, which allows us to habitually stay mindful, which paves the road toward the end of anxiety-and-stress, which keeps open the door for inner harmony to enter our lives.

In harmony, we experience less resentment or hatred, we forgive and forget easily, we are relaxed and balanced most of the time, we calmly tolerate waits and delays… When we are in harmony, we move through life effortlessly and most everything seems to work fine.

Inspirational books and motivational speakers give many well-intentioned recommendations on how to reach inner harmony (or whatever they consider its equivalence). Some examples of these common considerate advices follow; however thoughtful, they lead nowhere, let alone to inner harmony.

"Forgive! Forget!"  The offenses we are to forgive and the events we are to forget are bad memories that trigger aversions to real or imaginary things or events. Mindfulness facilitates the stopping of the automatic negative reactions whenever the bad memories arise. Forgiving and forgetting do not come from mechanisms that erase the obnoxious events from our brain records; they result from neuronal brakes that stop the conditioned reactions which automatically recall wicked, useless memories. We cannot take action to forgive or forget in the same way we choose a restaurant for tonight’s dinner.

"Calm down! Maintain balance!" Calmness and poise come from mental quietness. We do not command our brain to be silent. To calm down and maintain balance, we should stop the noisy conditionings that are disturbing us.

"Live in the present!" Our brain does not perceive time; our brain constructs time as a reference for our sense of identity. As mindfulness sizes down the acquired harmful mental formations (our redundant ego), the dependency of time loses strength. Our present is the motions and postures of our body, the sensations we perceive, and the mental states we experience. When we are mindful, our uncontaminated, essential self is in command; living in present time is an outcome, not an intention.

"Be spontaneous! Flow with life!" We cannot be spontaneous when we act out from the redundant ego. When the redundant ego is in control, cravings and aversions make all decisions for us; we do not notice their works and might even get pleasure from this slaving submission. Our redundant ego distorts what would otherwise be our natural, spontaneous behavior; we can only be spontaneous when our actions come from the essential self, free from harmful mental formations; at that stage, life actually flows. We cannot be spontaneous on purpose.

"Accept things as they are!" What keep us off from acceptance are both the cravings for what we lack, or those things we do have but want more of, and the aversions to what actually or imaginarily surround us. Acceptance is the absence of cravings and aversions. As mindfulness places mental formations at bay, we take things as they are. Again, we cannot decide to accept something that our harmful mental formations are rejecting.

This criticism does not mean that we should always scorn the above or similar well-intended pieces of advice; they might have some cheering content and open up channels for self-observation, which is good. When we put a smile on our face, we will feel better than with the frown we had a few seconds before. However, motivational texts and speeches are not—cannot be—alternatives to mindfulness; they have different purposes.

Some mindful-born individuals might not need meditation; their nature allows them to remain aware of their body, sensations and mental states. The rest of us, average people, vulnerable to conditionings, need the practice of meditation that strengthens our faculty of awareness, helps us to stay mindful… And eventually opens the door for inner harmony to enter our lives unexpectedly. 

Gustavo Estrada
Smyrna, GA, February 2014