December 30, 2018
Many thoughtful people remain silent until they have thought things through. In other words, they cogitate inside themselves. Others learn through verbal interchange, sometimes blabbing their way to sense. I lean more toward the verbal learner than the cerebral learner. One example of my typical mode of learning is what is going on right this moment. I wish to learn about mindfulness. Thus, I use my blog to chatter myself toward a fuller understanding of something that from a distance seems to be important.
A great way for me to learn about mindfulness would be to go to the Plum Village Monastery in southwest France, and sit at the feet of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. So happens that won’t happen!
However, there are alternatives. I know of people in my own community who have advanced in understanding and practice of meditation, some of it yoga related, some of it energy related. Resources are close by. And then, of course, the web and podcasts.
Several days ago I quoted a generic definition: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
For a second go, I turn to Google’s definition which seems to focus of “where we are and what we’re doing.” It goes like this. “Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
A mindfulness movement leader Jon Kabat-Zinn offers this definition: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
I enjoyed listening to my first podcast by Sam Harris, an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist, critic of religion, blogger, public intellectual, and podcast host. In listening to him, I realized that I am altogether uninformed of the therapeutic capabilities of mindfulness.
So I intend to blog my way to learning.
Today, for example, I tried to pay attention, on purpose, to the meandering of my thoughts. The day conveniently offered three distinctive sectors. In the first sector, I took a walk with my dog Rudy in Fort Harrison State Park. In the second unit, I printed a number of pages in a chapbook I hope to release in early February. In the third unit, I had to make a decision about attending an open house in honor of a recently married couple. Of course, my mind was meandering throughout the day, covering a vast territory.
But here are some thoughts I was aware of.
In Fort Harrison State Park: a chilly morning … early winter … heavy clouds, a colorless woods … Rudy doesn’t’t seem to like long walks … the young people jogging are surely a happy chattery lot … haven’t seen any wildlife …
While printing: do I have the pagination right for the printer? … both sides, you know … am I really saving money by doing this myself?… low on ink — HP makes its money not on printers but on ink cartridges …
The open house: (Spouse) is downtown at work, can’t go with me … I don’t like going out nights now that I’m older … they are good friends, I owe it to them…
So I registered a few thoughts. Yet I am sure, totally sure, that disciplined mindfulness practitioners go much deeper, much closer. Surely many of my thoughts were about me, but I was not yet attentive enough to document them.
I gather that the mindfulness gurus teach methods to get close to one’s thoughts, acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. I’ve a mind to learn those methods.
More later. Jump in if you’d like to comment.