Mindfulness, Spiritual Evolution, and Being a Good Person
Mindfulness is not a term over which the Buddhists have a monopoly. One of the most disappointing things I have found about much of the Pagan and Hellenic communities is the complete lack of an outlet for people to improve themselves. This is especially frustrating in the Hellenic community where the mindset is often focus on ritual but not on self development. Given how ancient religion emphasized areté or excellence (and not just in sports either) I find this rather strange.
Being a mystic is no guarantee of said self improvement. In many places, ranging from the Hellenic community to the esoteric/occult communities, I have found mystics who have in the entire course that I’ve known them stood at a standstill as far as their personality was concerned. In fact I have found that mystics can often “get in, get high” and never make any efforts towards mindfulness, self improvement, or anything of that nature. They wind up in pursuit of one spiritual experience after another the way people go from book after book, drink after drink in a bar, or relationship after relationship–never really scratching the surface of their own ego or producing any real results except the euphoria that mysticism can produce.
Is it any wonder why non-mystics are often so skeptical towards us?
What does mindfulness mean? It means being self-aware and cognisant of one’s aptitude as well as one’s flaws. It also means being aware of the world around them and how they relate to that world. In becoming mindful, one can become a better person.
This is usually where people ask, “Well, what is a good person and why would I want to become that?” I can sum up a good person via both modern and ancient standards according to the Delphic Maxims: a good person is someone who is compassionate, has integrity, and is good to others–and hence contributes to their family and/or community in a positive way. I don’t think a person can contribute in that positive vein without being a good person.
What is a positive contribution? A positive contribution is someone who is a good role model for others. Writing essays and putting up websites doesn’t make one into a good person, but someone who actively assists in charitable causes, helps people in need, and is generally good to others is.
When is someone not a good person? A person who spends their time negatively judging other people, is narcissistic and self-absorbed, and adds more negative contributions than positive. Frequently such people appear to care more about what other people are doing rather than what they are doing; hypocrisy is a trademark of such people.
I sometimes hear, “Well, trying to become a good person detracts from the worship of the gods.” I cannot think of a more non-Hellenic statement than this! Given how a good person can aid their community more effectively and be a force of good in this world, I see this as a rather lame attempt to justify their own behavior. What they REALLY mean is: “I just don’t care about being a good person; I only want to get high off of my spiritual practice. Who cares about the real good I can accomplish? It’s much easier to throw barley at offerings and libate my drinks and not do any work or effort towards such things. It’s too hard anyway.” Self improvement is hard. Personal development is hard. Looking at yourself hard in the mirror and striving to be a better version of you is hard. For these sorts, it’s frequently much easier to criticize everyone else vs worrying more about what they’re doing.
You don’t have to be a mystic in order to improve yourself. And mysticism comes in many forms: contemplation, meditation, philosophy–any sort of personal experience with the divine in whatever form or form you conceive of it to be. All you have to do is have a willingness to strive for areté, to own your own shit, and Get Things Done.