To understand mindfulness, I will first ask you to remember. Remember when you were a small child and had no agenda, no lists of “things to do”, just the responsibility to discover what was happening in the present moment.
If you observe small children who have the opportunity to explore the natural world, they are focused and very present with their environment. They notice subtle things that we rushed and hurried adults seldom take the time to see, much less appreciate – because we are “too busy”.
I can recall, as a young child, lying on the grass in my grandmother’s backyard in Kansas City, which was delightfully overgrown and wild around its edges, with a tall cherry tree on one border, spirea bushes that hid the yard from view of the street, and a concord grape vine that curled up an old maple tree. I lay with my face practically pressed into the blades of grass and just looked. At first all I saw were the blades of grass. As I kept watching, I saw ants moving through the blades of grass. I saw ladybugs. I found “whirlybirds” – maple seeds with wings that had fallen into the grass. And when I carefully peeled away the wing and split the green seed open, I found the tiniest beginnings of a maple tree. I experienced a “knowing” where there was no separation between me and the world around me – just an interaction that was intuitive, based on my spontaneous “being” in the world.
I give you this memory as an example of how rich each present moment is in our lives – no matter where we are, or how difficult our circumstances. Only our thoughts, emotional habits, pre-conceived notions, and expectations limit our ability to access the richness, the subtlety, and the opportunity that each moment in life gives us. Mindfulness is staying open to the possibilities of the present moment and just “being”. It is about the practice of letting go of conditioned reactions in order to experience more.
You may have heard the description “narrow-minded” as well as “open-minded”. Consider what both of those descriptions mean to you. Mindfulness is the practice of opening your mind to the present moment, rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future.
Mindfulness does not mean sitting under a tree and contemplating your navel for the rest of your life! It is about cultivating what is sometimes called “beginner’s mind”, so that you may see the world with curiosity of a child and allow more options for well-being to present themselves in your life.
Lake Chelan, Washington
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