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.
Yesterday, I had 4 meaningful pastoral visits at Oshkosh Correctional. During these visits, I listen, ask questions, mirror back goodness (the many ways each prisoner’s practice inspires me), and encourage new areas of growth.
Today, I stood with my FREE HUGS sign outside the neighborhood polling place. I was there between 11:30 and 2 in the cold drizzle. Hands numb, heart warm. At first, I was nervous; at the end, I didn’t want to leave.
In my Gmail inbox, I’m given three automated, short responses from which to choose. For example, “Thanks, I’ll check it out!” “Awesome, thanks!” “Got it!” These same automated responses appear in Skype chat, as well as social media. None of the automated messages sound anything like me. They’re brief, generic, and bland.
Connection is a basic human need. We require love, belonging, acceptance, and support, if only from a few people. But to fully heal, we must cultivate love within ourselves. Self-compassion is true medicine. It works from the inside out.
Yesterday, I had intense, meaningful pastoral visits in Oshkosh prison. I listen deeply to the inmates, asking questions when needed, but mostly I bear witness. Then I bring our conversation back to meditation—mindfulness tools with which they can practice. Though we’re not friends, I care about these guys in important, real, and heartfelt ways. I see them. I know and understand them.
It’s been a gray, rainy, dark autumn in Appleton. The past few weeks, I allowed external weather to overly impact my internal weather. I’ve felt crabby and frustrated, even angry. I’ve felt constricted inside: my throat tight from wanting to control the uncontrollable, my heart closed to joy and wonder. I saw clearly how this doesn’t feel good.
As many of you know, I volunteer in prison, sitting in a circle with inmates, teaching and practicing mindfulness. My most recent, real writing comes from these prison experiences. It’s deep spiritual practice—both heartbreaking and heartwarming. It connects me to humanity in simple and profound ways.
Grief is visceral, unpredictable, and raw. Part of me resists grief, wishing it were done, completed, and gone. This same resistance holds self-judgment: Get over it, Joy; toughen up. Yet I don’t want to “toughen up.” The wiser, kinder parts of me welcome waves of grief. These waves honor my tenderness and vulnerability. They cultivate deep love and gratitude. They connect me to humanity.
Humanity has been in my heart and on my mind. I sit with the suffering of humanity: natural disasters, acts of violence, discrimination, injustice, and abuse. I also experience the sea of humanity. We live in communities yet sometimes don’t interact. We can get lost in our busy lives, important tasks, or personal dramas.
All meaningful practices require effort. In fact, much of the meaning comes from the effort. After (and while) working hard on projects, relationships, or creative endeavors, we feel satisfaction and contentment. Persistent practice reaps benefits.