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Now this: My attempt to distill the essence of mindfulness

January 31, 2016

Recently as our daughter’s dog rumbled about our house, it saw something outside and bolted through the screen door, leaving it in tatters. After years of practicing mindfulness and teaching people about it, I was able at the dog-ruins-screen moment to just take a deep breath, smile, and think: Well, I guess that screen is toast!  This bypassed a lot of angry protestations that would have more naturally come out of me had I not been practicing mindfulness meditation each morning for the past several years. Lest you be too impressed, I could cite several mindfulness failures under stress for each situation I’ve handled calmly. My attempt to live mindfully is definitely a work in progress.

     Mindfulness has now been the focus of over 3400 published studies in psychology. This ancient spiritual discipline turned treatment approach is the hottest topic in mental health. It is used to help people with PTSD, depression, anxiety, anger, relationship issues and many other problems. One of the world’s top experts on mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, has said it’s the “thing that seems like almost nothing that turns out to be almost everything.”

     Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment without judgment of it. It is allowing the moment to be as it is without reacting too quickly to it. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Mindfulnesss practices allows us to practice being in that space between stimulus and response.

     Here is my attempt, using the nested meditation form I introduced in Divinity in Disguise (2003), to distill the essence of mindfulness.

 

Now this?

 

Now, this

just is what is.

 

Now, this

just is. What is

in it for me?

 

Now, this

just is. What is

in it for me

is a choice.

 

Now, this

just is what is.

In it for me

is a choice

of how to be in it.

 

copyright 2016 by Kevin Anderson

 

     When “Now this?” is a dog tearing out your screen door, it’s easy to quickly judge the event as bad, proceed to anger that it happened, and then to behaviors that express anger and protest over the moment. The trouble with our automatic, mindless reactions is that they can never change "Now, this just is what is." No matter how much I might have protested, it would not have put the screen back together again. It would have only created a second tear, this one in the fabric of something far more valuable than the screen: my relationship with my daughter.

     Life has many “Now this?” moments far tougher than a dog going through a screen. That’s why I know I need daily practice at mindfulness meditation. Check out this video of a long-term meditator whose “Now this?” on Christmas Day a few years ago was being surrounded by the flames and black smoke of a plane crash: cbsnews.com/news/the-quiet-power-of-meditation. He credits his daily meditation with helping him stay calm in the fire so that he could determine how to free himself and escape. He believes meditation saved his life. For most of us, mindfulness meditation won’t save our lives in such a dramatic way, but it can save our lives in a hundred small ways every day.

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website © 2014 by The Winged Life

All writing excerpts on this site copyrighted by Kevin Anderson.  For permissions, email wingedlifeinfo@gmail.com

Crecopia moth photo in header used by permission of Scott Rosenfeld, scottrosenfeldphoto.com