Mindfulness is being in the present moment in an open and friendly way. It's both mind-training and heart-training.You can start right where you are.
Years ago, when I was working long hours, feeling stressed, and focused on externals, I declared, “I just need to let go.” A wise friend looked at me and noted: “Joy, you can’t, all of sudden, let go. What’s one small step you can take?”
The year after my mom died, I inhabited a raw, tender, vivid state of grief. I looked around at people’s interactions—in coffee shops, classes, activities, and workplaces. And I noticed two things:
I volunteer in prison in two capacities: leading a secular mindfulness meditation group and holding one-on-one visits with prisoners. The sharing in group is powerful: courage, wisdom, and vulnerability. Yet the sharing in pastoral visits goes deeper.
Years ago, during a bike ride from the Farmer’s Market, we spotted drawers stacked on the curb. Once home, as I unpacked produce, Mark wordlessly went out to the garage. Ten minutes later he was home with a pile of drawers. Within an hour, we had a “squirrel drawer” hanging from the maple tree just outside our back porch.
I have lists of blog ideas from my unplugged sabbatical experience, but when it comes to writing, I need to describe what’s alive for me in the moment. Right now, it’s fear. The fear isn’t strong or overwhelming, but it’s present.
Love is both beautiful and complicated. When our heart is open and spacious, love flows naturally without conditions. When our heart is constricted and controlling, love is blocked.
On Thursday, Mark and I travel to a small island in the West Indies. We stay for five weeks in a little cottage by the ocean. Our time is “unplugged”: no Internet, news, TV, email, or screens. We get to the market via bikes, no car. It’s an unconventional life that nourishes our spirits.
I listened to an interview with Mary Oliver from 2015. Krista Tippet asked about the poem, “Wild Geese,” which resonated with the world and perhaps saved lives. Oliver wryly responded that it was an exercise in end-stopped lines. That exercise motivated her poem. Hence, something big and grand came from a technique practice.
Some of you know me from my writing: blog posts about mindfulness, vulnerability, and compassion. Some of you know me from my meditations: audio recordings about breath, sensation, and awareness. But few of you have heard an interview with me.
I recall an exercise from a meditation teacher. She asked yes-or-no questions about identities. Are you a daughter? Are you a teacher? Are you a Democrat/Republican? Internally, if I scream “yes” or “no,” then I’m holding too tightly (or resisting just as tightly). Her invitation was to move toward “I don’t know.”