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.
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.”
We have many unbalanced relationships. There’s much that consumes us and that we consume. Yet what do we really seek? Our habits can mask our heart hunger.
I have a new relationship with the grocery store. Woodman’s is now a place to intentionally practice; to be aware, mindful, and kind. If you’re unfamiliar with Woodman’s, it’s a huge supermarket with towering, crammed aisles and little open space. Navigating a cart isn’t easy. This situation used to annoy me, but now I enter Woodman’s prepared to slow down.
I came to meditation, 16 years ago, out of necessity. I was working 70-hour weeks, achieving and striving, yet still worrying and planning. It was a cycle of “finish this project, get this promotion, or write this paper, and then you can relax,” but the “then” never came.
I’ve been reading the great speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m moved by his words and his work. And I’m struck by how relevant his message is in today’s world. The injustice he met with love and “soul force” is still widespread.
When we reflect on our day, it’s often negative events that stick in our minds—the undone tasks, mistakes, or criticisms—because the human brain has a negativity bias. When I first heard this, I felt relief: Phew, it’s not just me! A negativity bias is baked into us through evolution.
I’m humbled when I volunteer in prison. On Sunday, I felt beleaguered: too much to do, not enough time. Essentially, the “me” channel was loud and voracious. I was a big deal in my mind (though not a big deal in the world). I’d lost touch with gratitude and perspective.