mindfulness-575x640I am attending a 6-week course “The Power of Awareness” led by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. This is a remarkable and life changing adventure to train the heart and mind with the powerful tools of mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness. We live in a fast-paced, aggressive and over-stimulating culture. One of the great difficulties is that we lose touch with ourselves and with what matters most. There is a New Yorker cartoon of monks at a protest rally. The monk with the loudspeaker says: “What do we want?”

The crowd responds: “Mindfulness!”

When do we want it?” “Now!”

Mindfulness is generally defined as a specific way of paying attention to our experience in the present moment with open, spacious and non-judgmental awareness. When we are mindful we are in immediate contact with our experience.

The Washington Post did an experiment in which they invited world-class violinist Joshua Bell to take his violin into the subway in the morning, put out his hat and play amazing pieces from Bach. They realised that after an hour of him being there almost no one has stopped except for children and there was $17 in the hat which wouldn’t get you one quarter of the way to a concert ticket. What this really says is that there is beauty around us from rain storms to the sunrise/set to the beauty in the eyes of those we love to the things we care about. We can train ourselves to become more present. We long for ways to calm our minds, steady our hearts and tend wisely to our body and the world around us.

A young man in the military had an anger problem and was sent to an 8-week mindfulness training. One day in a crowded grocery, the woman in front of him had only one item, so she should have been in the express lane. He got annoyed with her. When she got to the register, she started chatting with the cashier and they cooed over the baby she was holding. Then she handed the baby to the cashier! Now he was really upset. Doesn’t she know that people are in a hurry? Because of the class, he noticed the pain of the anger and realised there was nothing he could do to speed things up. So he took a few deep breaths and settled down. He looked and realised the kid was cute. At the register, he mentioned that the little boy was cute. The cashier said, “Oh, do you like him? He is my boy. My husband didn’t make it back from Afghanistan. So now I work full-time and my mom takes care of him and tries to bring him once a day.” Sometimes we judge others too quickly and ourselves even faster. The gift of mindfulness is to step back from the mind’s reactivity, to quiet the mind, steady the heart and see others and ourselves with care and dignity.

We know that we can exercise our bodies for better health. We also know that we can work with our consciousness for better health and wellbeing of our minds, to be kind to ourselves and less judgmental. First pause – in order to listen to your heart and then remember what matters.

Do you pay regular visits to yourself? Rumi

humor: There is a mindfulness paraphernalia – a bone shaped necklace which says “Sit, stay, heal”