Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Matt

old book


Practice what you preach. All preachers fear this idiom. By “preacher” I mean all those who espouse any form of philosophy, not just religion.

Philosophy is clean and consistent whereas humanity is imperfect and inconsistent. Philosophy offers us a semblance of stability in a world defined by change and uncertainty. It is no wonder that religion, politics, and other philosophic doctrines hold such sway over humanity.

The reason preachers fear their own hypocrisy is that the good ones realize that they will inevitably fall short of their words. No man can attain perfection; we can only aspire to it. And this aspiration alone is enough.

I am a preacher. I interpret, repackage, and redistribute an ancient philosophy for the modern era. I am anything but unique in this endeavor. And I am also a hypocrite.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a hypocrite. I would suggest that hypocrisy is synonymous with humanity. Those who make an honest effort to live up to their beliefs but fall short are only guilty of being human. And those who make no effort to live up to their beliefs are more lazy than malevolent.

I like to think that I am part of the former category and make an honest effort to live up to the mindfulness practice that I write about. But I hold no illusions that I will ever be able to experience a perfectly mindful existence. Nor do I want to. True mindfulness practice embraces the anxious as well as the tranquil side of humanity.

Anxiety is a part of life as a human; it provides the whip to drive us towards the future. The trick is to find the balance between a healthy and unhealthy amount of anxiety. Also, we must learn to identify its source.

dropletAnxiety is like a water droplet: at a normal temperature it is well formed and specific, but turn the heat up and it becomes an amorphous vapor. Anxiety bubbles up from the unconscious in such a subtle manner that we typically are unaware of the droplet form and only become aware of the vague feeling of general anxiety.

Despite my intellectual knowledge of mindfulness, I miss the specific cause of my anxieties quite often and find myself wading through a fog of generalized anxiety without knowing how I got there.

When I was first setting out on the mindful path, I would kick myself whenever I realized I was obsessing again. I felt like the mindful path should be devoid of stumbling blocks. I treated mindfulness like an illness: I either had it or I didn’t. There was no room for grey.

It took a great deal of practice to learn to forgive myself and even embrace my mindless moments. I learned to see my anxious experiences as a mindful bell, reminding me of my humanity and calling me back to equanimity. Sometimes I could respond to the call of the bell, other times I had to simply ride out the anxiety.

No matter how much I learn about mindfulness I still experience anxiety. And so will you. The nature of the worries may change but the fundamental emotion never will. Mindfulness reminds us that emotions are transient and our current feeling state will give way to our next feeling state in due time. This perspective helps us to steel ourselves for the inevitable anxieties, knowing that just as the cloud needs the sun to exist, so too the sun needs the cloud to shine.

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4 Responses

  1. Patty Barnett says:

    Let free floating anxiety be calmed by realizing you have the skill to carry on.
    In sports , it is being in the zone.

    • Thank you so much Patty. I appreciate all of your comments and dedicated reading. I completely agree. Developing the ability to recognize and tame our own anxieties is much like building a muscle. The more we practice the better we get.


  2. kate eisenmenger says:

    Really like the water droplet analogy. It is a beautiful image for what may be an uncomfortable experience.

    • I’m glad you appreciated the analogy! Anxiety is a fickle character. It can be very rare to put ones finger on a specific cause. I felt like the analogy captured the notion that general and specific anxieties are simply different phases of the same element. Thanks again for reading the post and the wonderful feed back!

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