Mindfulness Two

Befriending

Mindfulness is moment to moment, non-judgemental awareness, cultivated by paying attention. Mindfulness arises naturally from living. It can be strengthened through practice. This practise is sometimes called meditation. But meditation is not what you think.

Meditation is really about paying attention, and the only way in which we can pay attention is through our senses, all of them, including our mind. Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience. Of course, our experience is vast, and includes our own body, our mind, our heart, and the entire world.

from Jon Kabat Zinn’s book, “Coming To Our Senses”

Any thoughts?

I think we all claim to pay attention, although when we are reminded of what we have overlooked, it seems that our attention is really focussed on certain areas and we are not generally alert. There seems to be a lot of potential in us that we do not use, but our professional and even personal lives are often so stressful that we have difficulties in “acting” out things that we find important and urgent, and instead we tend to “re-act” to those things that others claim are urgent. I thought that this was only a sign of our times, but seeing as mindfulness is “the heart” of Buddhism, it must be a human complaint.

It reminds me of the Johari-Window with the “blind-spot” enhancing the “unknown”, leaving the “arena” as only a small area of our pereption and the “facade” more as an area of illusion, which, if we believe it ourselves, also enhances the unknown. Coming to our senses would mean becoming more aware of our blind-spots and facades, which would also mean looking at our religious activities and beliefs, so that even if we have our area of discretion (I call it “the Chamber” from a Christian point of view), it enhances what we know, rather than what we do not know.

Personally, I cannot see how religious life (or sentient life at all) can be meaningful without cultivating mindfulness. Are there methods of doing this in other traditions other than Buddhism? Do Buddhists see mindfulness as the heart of their worldview?

Shalom

Hi Bob,

Thanks for initiating this thread series. You’ll excuse my having shaken out some cobwebs and emaciated flies in Mindfulness One. The chattering monkey in my mind types with earnest abandon. It has flung its feces too long… I must set it free some day.

Yes, mindfulness (and mindlessness) transcends religion. As a corollary, and dare I say, not to be argumentative, I’d add, it transcends “God” (please note the scare quotes… :confused:). Or no god. My general sense is that the methods of other traditions lack Buddhism’s ability to pack away the baggage.

I just found Carl Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God in the bargain bin. The Editor’s (his wife) Introduction concludes as follows:

Not that mindfulness equates with questioning, but neither does it equate with answering. Then again, perhaps it relates more to “quest” than to “swearing-against”?

In my halcyon days as an aspiring Buddhist, the presence of a formal meditative practice in my life was truly a jewel. I would seek that possibility again, but many false starts add up to a very perturbed monkey. Nonetheless, I bought the book. Looking forward to seeing where it goes…

Take Air!

Hi Oughtist,

Yes, this reminds me of other conversations I have had in the past – the baggage does seem to be the big problem. I am personally amazed at the inability of Christians to realise that, whatever their image of God is, it is an idol if they are not aware that it is only a metaphor. If there is one thing that has come across to me through the Old Testament, it is the fact that it depicted the struggle against idolatry, which had always been central to religion at that time. In the Bible, Moses goes further that Akhenaton did in Egypt by enforcing monotheism, he denies the imagery and causes a great deal of strife, portrayed by the 40 years in the wilderness, out of which even he does not survive.

I think that mindfulness does indeed transcend such ideas of God that is simply “superhuman” and leads us on to an understanding that, if indeed the God of the Bible is “a Being”, such a being would be, as the Bible also portrays him, not perfect and in need of development. This is in my mind more of a projection of our wishes than reality and we have to ask whether we need such a God. Or, which seems to be the case, whether this portrayal is wisdom in the sense that we are shown the traps into which we are bound to fall, unless we do away with such baggage.

Jesus seems to have a completely different view – albeit exceedingly subtle. He calls on tradition to show that the next step, the new covenant, will be by far different and that piety must transcend beyond the kind that was practised in his day, toward a meditative/ contemplative state of heightened awareness that sees the nature of the world as it is. Central to that would be mindfulness.

Yes, Carl Sagan also tried to reconcile spirituality with science in his novel “Contact”, which I think was quite thought provoking. The fact that something ‘is’ rather than not, must be reason enough for its being, and all attempts to find out ‘why’, other than when human-beings produce some abomination they presume they have ‘created’, are irrelevant. In fact, the modern world, with its frenzied attempts to be ‘original’ and make something others could desire, moves drastically against such an understanding.

The true purpose of life would be just ‘to be’ and discover the marvels of what ‘is’. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not labour nor do they spin … Consider the ravens, for they do not sow, nor do they reap …” Consider what you see and ask yourself how it is, discover like a child, with “a beginners mind”, give up your determination to change the face of the earth, instead discover where the Tao flows, where God is. Pay attention, come to your senses, and befriend yourselves and your experience – as vast as that may be.

I’m glad that you did – perhaps we’ll start discovering things together …

Shalom

Hi again Bob,

Sorry, don’t have anything substantive to say. I want to keep connected to the text, but haven’t had opportunity to return to it yet. Nonetheless, came across a quote you might appreciate:

:techie-hourglass:

Hi Bob,

I believe it is very difficult not to judge something that you are paying attention to.

As far as our experience including the entire world, I do not believe this is true for the obvious reason that I will never (nor do I have any desire whatsoever to) experience the entire world, or much more of it than I experience in my day-to-day life.

I am aware, but blissfully in denial of the continuous and constant suffering that goes on throughout the world. Actually, I am not even really in denial, I just try not to think about it. I find that there is only so much I can care about, Bob, although it does extend well beyond my own family. I care about my road being clean, I care about my town, I care about the happiness and comfort of guests at my hotel, Zaire, I couldn’t possibly care less about.

Perhaps I am selfish insofar as I only care about the things that I directly experience, but why should it not be that way when I can only exercise influence on that which I experience?

You’re a better human being than I, Bob, so I look forward to your response.

Shalom,
Pierce G.

Not just true, but also poetically spoken …

Get back when you can … I’ll be looking forward to it.

Shalom

Hi Bob,

Well, further to Bee musings, I have the good fortune of not being a speed reader. It was the bane of my doctoral experience. I’m on p. 55. I’m reading it Saturday mornings in the bleachers while my son does “Swim Gym”. The thought of exercise and practice hangs in the air.

Kabat-Zinn’s discussion of Homer’s “blind seer” brought to mind my own occupation. I teach kids with severe autism (cf. “mind blindness”, but it’s not quite that simplistic), and have engaged in a daily half-hour sitting meditation with them for a full decade. I’m told it’s a site to behold… we’re the calmest group in the junior high (with notable, sudden, and uncontestable exceptions). I paraphrased the 3 Jewels saying to: “I am going to school until I am an adult, for my Self, with my Teachers, and all the other students. By learning to be a good role model, I hope to help many people in my lifetime.”

This year, though, I’ve wavered from that path and, while the students are sitting, I attempt to get some prep work done.

Crap. I was hoping to get more out here, but have to leave it at that for now… take air!

…my train of thought remains broken.

I think I can.

Canada needs an Obama.

My nephew phones me the other day. Says he needs help with the presocratics. Haven’t dealt with them for a while, I says. I’ll come talk to you tomorrow, he says. I try to start re-re-reading Tragic Age of the Greeks, but can’t muster it.

I ask him, what persuasion is your prof.? He doesn’t know. Shows me the quotes. Heraclitus. Sophrosyne (I forget, is that how you spell it?), I recognize (to my astonishment). “Hidden Harmony” “Sleepers are equally the constructors of the universe” (I’m paraphrasing).

Son’s got a snuffle. Won’t be doing Swim Gym tomorrow. I’ll try to do a reading, though. But I’m also babysitting my sister’s beagle tonight for the first time, and my brother in law’s malamute tomorrow. I’m a cat person, ultimately.

Amen.

“When we train in tranquil abiding we have to overcome various obstacles by applying specific antidotes.” Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Clear Light of Bliss 1982

I think Obama would be perfect for Canada.

Me too, except that he’s a foreigner… :frowning:

Well, didn’t get any reading done. But here’s some more from the vault:

Hi Pierce,

I think it was perhaps poetic justice that I would have difficulties for over a month to concentrate on an answer for you – I am definitely no “better” than you or anyone else. If that was what religion was about, we would all have no part in it – but it is about precisely the opposite: Realising who and what we are isn’t perfect (that is whole, complete) and seeking what is lacking. It is about re-linking or re-binding to something lost. The various religions differ in their opinion about whether it is a re-linking to something inside or outside of us, but that isn’t really a problem.

Befriending ourselves and our experience is something that I understand in this way. Like you say yourself, it is very easy to judge something that you are paying attention to, but if you are not paying attention, you don’t have the choice. Non-judgemental awareness is like just watching the sun go down, or listening to a well known piece of music, during which you just experience the sight or the sound without thought about how it could be better.

The other day a friend of mine told me how he was disgusted with some of the thoughts he had, and he felt deep remorse. It was then that I realised that the problem is in believing that I am my thoughts – but thoughts come and go without my “doing” them. It is our reaction to those thoughts that is decisive here. If I have immoral thoughts and encourage them, they thrive and change my character. If I ignore them, they have no influence, except to make me realise that I too experience such thoughts.

I know what you mean, but if you can realise the inter-linked state we live in, you will perhaps understand that we are a part of what is happening. We are not outside of our experience, but inside of it. We are happening right now and our happening is a part of a global happening. When things happen in this way, you don’t really know where they begin, whether in your direct vicinity or, perhaps, thousands of miles away. The laws of causality are complex and there is more speaking for global causes than for local causes, even though we are often unaware of it. Mindful awareness then wakens to this possibility and realises the vast experience we are having.

Mindfulness does not require of us that we permanently bombard our senses with the suffering of the world, but asks of us that we be aware of the cause of suffering and prevent it as best we can in our field of influence. If we prevent suffering in ourselves, in our family or our street, we already have changed the world.

Shalom

Hi Oughtist,

Now that is interesting. I have always asked myself whether the way autistic children are presented is accurate in as much as they always seem pre-occupied with some detail, whether numbers (as in the films) or something else. Preoccupation is also something that we try to avoid when being mindful – that is, we are occupied with something mindfully and attentively or we are not. Has that any bearing on Autism or am I way off?

How did the babysitting go?

Once again, very true …

Shalom

Hi Bob,

There is certainly that sort of thing scattered throughout the spectrum of Autism, though the manifestations of autism are actually much more widely diffuse. There is a quintessence about autism which is curious to define, but when someone says to me, “I know someone with autism”, I tend to guide my response into the idea that they know one person with autism. Autism remains a behaviourally described syndrome, not a medically identifiable one (like Downs).

But yes, preoccupation, or as they say in my circles, perseveration, is often a debilitating factor of the person’s ability to maintain awareness of the other minds around him (approx. 4 to 1 male instance; 90:1 in the male population).

So, when I’ve been meditating with my students over this last decade, I’ve actually personally been “meditating” per se only very rarely, myself, dealing with behaviours; but some of my students have verbalized some sense of recognition about what they were doing (a good half of them, though, are usually non-verbal).

Sorry, there has been an interruption in the Swim-Gym schedule, so I haven’t got back to the text yet…

Babysitting went well. One of my cats swatted my sister’s beagle in the nose and he spent alot of time just sitting in a corner sulking. Very cute. The malamute was quite happy and content, until my step-son brought over the St. Bernard…

…ohm…

I suppose it doesn’t matter provided the re-linking takes place. Meaning lies with either possibility, but I would be inclined to find more meaning by re-linking to something inside of me that is lost as opposed to something external.

I failed to really consider that, the music example really appeals to me. I suppose we just listen to the song a few times before we begin to judge it. Non judgmental awareness and peacefulness are probably closely linked, no?

Excellent point, Bob. While it may be true that we have thoughts that expand upon initial thoughts, the initial thoughts can often come through no mental excursion of our own. I suppose that makes a great case for the sub-conscious mind. What about the possibility that the sub-conscious mind and the soul are one in the same, any opinions?

I suppose I failed to take the butterfly effect into consideration, I appreciate the reminder.

Another excellent point, Bob. If we endeavor to take care of only those few closest to us, eventually everyone will be taken care of.

Peace Be With You,
Pierce G.