Photo by Ian Espinosa
Lately I've been having a lot of conversations with various people about mindfulness and meditation. It just seems to come up and I'm always happy to participate. Having been drawn to and interested in meditation in my early 20's, I "dabbled" for several years. As time went on, I moved from my version of TM (Transcendental Meditation) to other forms promoted by various teachers, some of them directly linked to very specific spiritual practices. I learned something from each of them and wove their contributions into my soul. When I began my journey into Vipassana meditation and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), I felt like I was tying up the loose threads.
After several retreats, trainings, intensives and creating my own practice, I began facilitating eight-week MBSR courses. I did it for many years and I still use what I learned, both as a student as well as a teacher, every day.
One of my favorite parts of the classes was "mindful walking". I taught year round and unless the weather was truly prohibitive, I would take the group outside on a walk through a park and neighborhood. We would meander in silence and I realized that I loved how different the seasons are in New England (even winter was bearable on this walk!). Although I would trace the same route, several times a year, it didn't look the same at all, thanks to Mother Nature.
Back in the classroom, we would discuss the participants' observations. We had all looked at the same landscape, yet we all saw something different. Our senses were attuned to various markers -- some talked about the smells, pleasant or not; some mentioned what the light was like outside; some noticed either sounds or the comparative silence, while others found themselves discussing the effects of temperature on their physical and emotional bodies with some people thoroughly enjoying the brisk winter air and others feeling like it was just too cold. We had all been in an identical situation, yet our experiences did not necessarily match.
As the Buddha taught, most of life is not about what is right or wrong, good or bad. In fact, we often get ourselves in trouble when we try to assign those qualities. William Shakespeare said, many years later:
"There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."
This quote comes from Hamlet when he is commenting on how Denmark feels like prison to him. Even though that is his impression, he is also aware that Denmark does not have the same effect on everyone else.
It makes me think about how often I can get impatient with someone who just isn't "seeing" something the way I am. It's so easy to fall into believing that everyone else is having exactly the same observation to a set of circumstances.
Photo by Orlova Maria
Mindfulness and meditation teaches us to slow down, take in the moment, and choose our actions from that point. It's not easy to adopt that approach to life when we are used to reacting swiftly, based on previous information. Remembering that regardless of what we are looking at, what we see might be specific only to us could open up a sense of curiosity instead of mistrust. If we can start practicing the pause, there might be fewer misunderstandings and richer relationships ... this is what I wish for you.
Something else the Buddha taught was the universal law of change ... my Monday Quote and Thursday Blogette will no longer come out every week. I have decided to explore new territories. I'm not sure exactly where it will take me, but I will check in with you about the journey as things evolve. In the meantime, I will send out my observations every other week. The next MQ will be August 27. See you then!