“Suppose we look deeply at a rose. With some concentration and mindfulness we can see that the rose is made of only non-rose elements.
What do we see in the rose?
We see a cloud, because we know, without the cloud, there wouldn’t be rain and without the rain, the rose couldn’t grow. So, a cloud is a non-rose element that we can recognise if we look deep into the rose. Next, we can see sunshine, which is also crucial for the rose to grow. The sunshine is another non-rose element present in the rose. If you took the sunshine and cloud out of the rose, there would be no rose left.
If we continue like this we see many non-rose elements within the rose, including the minerals, the soil, the farmer, the gardener and so on. The whole cosmos has come together to produce the wonder we call rose. A rose cannot be by herself alone. A rose has to inter-be with the whole cosmos. This is the insight we call Interbeing.
When looking at a rose, if we can see all the non-rose elements that make up the rose, then we can truly touch the reality of the rose. No matter what we look at, if we can see that it is made up of everything in the Universe that is not itself, then we touch the true reality of that thing, its non-self nature.”
His words brought light. His voice, peace. His presence, compassion. He said, “No coming, no going. No after, no before. I hold you close to me. I release you to be free. Because I am in you and you are in me.” I will always hold you close to me, dear Father of Mindfulness.
Once upon a time there was a beggar. He sat at a street corner, pleading for scraps. Anything – pennies, food, clothing. For thirty years, he had lived in dire poverty. One day a young man came along and asked him, “What is it that you sit on?”
“It’s an old wooden box.” mumbled the beggar.
‘Shall we have a look inside it?’
“It’s not worth looking at. I found it in a rubbish heap years ago.”
‘Ever looked inside?’
“No. What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.”
‘I can help you dust it down if you like.’
“Can you spare some change for me please?”
‘Yes. After we’ve looked at the box you sit on.’
“If you insist…”
They took the rotten old blanket off the wooden box and managed to pry it open. With utter disbelief, astonishment and elation they saw a heap of glittering gold-coins within.
While we look for scraps of pleasure, fulfillment, validation and security outside of us, the true wealth of deep unshakable peace and the radiant joy of Being lies within us. Inspired by “The Power of Now”, a book by Eckhart Tolle, I’ve been practicing making this moment the focus of my attention, surrendering to what is and saying ‘yes’ to life, noticing the direct relationship between inner resistance and pain, observing the subtle life-force that flows through my body, witnessing my emotions arise and cease as sensations in my chest and tummy. I have learnt to trust myself. I have found glimpses of freedom from my mind and felt my presence as one with the Universe. Who would’ve thought this possible?
Earlier this week I had the honour of sharing some of the theory, practice and research on this subject through an on-line presentation entitled “Making Friends with Now”. Many thanks to The Compassionate Friends for making this teaching accessible to many.
10 weeks back I was surprised to find an all-day course in ‘Mindful Self-Compassion’ for Health Professionals advertised on the Trust intranet. It sounded great and it was for free. Wow! We are recognising the pressures on health care professionals and moving slowly but surely in the right direction. To organise a course like this and make it available to all staff at no cost is nothing less than super-fantastic.
I enrolled instantly and waited patiently for the day to arrive. The day arrived. I entered the room to find all these items scattered neatly around the room: a bowl of smooth tactile pebbles in purple, maroon, white and yellow, little bottles of lavender and vanilla extracts, fantastical eye-catching postcards, maracas and manjiras, a white rosary in a tiny wooden box, sketch pads with charcoal tree sticks, a bunch of sea shells, sprigs of fresh rosemary and mint, a dried corn on the cob, a few white and brown feathers, a spongy red ball and a spiky yellow plastic one, a tiny hand-crank music box and an hour-glass with pink sand. These things were for us to appreciate, touch, feel, smell and listen to.
Two gentle young women led the day taking great care of
everyone in the room and in complete harmony with each other. We started with a
‘soft landing’ – becoming aware of our feet on the floor, bum on chair, our
breath and our finger tips. They called these short snatches of peace, the ‘green
moments’. We were encouraged to create/access these green moments to transition
from seeing one patient to the next or from work to home mode and vice versa.
The word ‘discernment’ was brought into my awareness. While the
dictionary meaning of it is “the ability
to judge well”, we were encouraged to scan our thoughts and ‘notice what’s not
helpful’. It was a useful concept. It helped me locate stuff that was
unnecessarily cluttering up my mind and blocking light from entering this
I remembered that as a teenager I had a big scrap book filled with my collection of feathers of all kinds, my favourite being the peacock feather. Where did that dreamy girl with 2 pig-tails go?
For a while I could hold the little girl in me lovingly in my arms and marvel at her innocence and beauty, appreciate her child-like sense of wonder and creativity. This sweet girl is me. Perfect and complete in every way. All she needed was to be seen. By me.
“Pay attention!” – I heard this thousands of times at school. Did anyone actually teach me how to pay attention? No. I did my best with whatever my understanding was.
Mindfulness seems to be the buzzword these days. And rightly so. It is about paying attention to what is. However, without ‘heartfulness’ it is incomplete. Not just ‘attention’ but ‘kind attention’. The softening of the heart is important.
The purpose of teaching mindfulness in schools is not mainly to achieve better focus and concentration in lessons but learning to recognise and express ones feelings and be respectful and considerate of other’s feelings. It is about using all our senses with intention and noticing the subtleties of our surroundings and ourselves. I learnt a new word and technique today – FOFBOC – Feet on Floor, Bum on Chair – a technique to anchor the ‘monkey mind’.
In school we were taught to get us to a point where we could make a living but we were not taught how to live. Now, children as young as 5 are being taught mindfulness and I think it is a life enhancing skill which will have a definite role in prevention and early recognition of mental ill health.
Sitting still for a few minutes is an activity and a precious one.
Mindfulness is being alive and knowing it.