Dear Members and Friends,
I came across a lovely piece of writing from my colleague Abhi Janamachi that speaks beautifully to this month's theme of mindfulness:
In today’s world, there certainly are no lack of reasons for anxiety and despair. The future of humanity and the planet will be shaped by what we choose to do to heal the underlying despair, distress, dissatisfaction, and dis-ease of our lives and our times, even as we cherish and affirm all that is good and beautiful and healthy in ourselves and in the world. Our journey toward health and wholeness is an invitation to wake up and be attentive to the fullness of our lives, and to mobilize resources that we already have at our disposal. The most important resource we have is our capacity for being mindful and attentive to the everyday aspects of our lives, particularly to those areas that we tend to deny or ignore.
There’s a parable in Kitchen Table Wisdom a wonderful book of healing stories by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. It’s a story offered by psychologist Roberto Assagioli, who tells of a man who goes to interview three stonecutters engaged in building a very large cathedral. When he asks the first stonecutter what he is doing, the man bitterly replies that he is cutting stones into blocks, a foot by a foot by three quarters of a foot. With frustration, he describes a life in which he has done this over and over, and expects to continue to do so until he dies.
The second stonecutter also says that he is cutting stones into blocks, a foot by a foot by three quarters of a foot, but he adds an important piece. He lets the man know that he is earning a living for his family; through his work his children will have clothes to keep them warm and food for them to grow strong, and that he and his wife will be able to maintain their home, which they built with so much love.
But it is the third man’s response that astounds the interviewer. In an enthusiastic voice, he tells the man how joyous and grateful he is to have the privilege of building a great cathedral, so strong that it will stand as a holy beacon for a thousand years.
Finding sustaining meaning in familiar repetitive activities takes mindfulness. And when we embody mindfulness in all we do, we are able to see and go beyond the details of our work, however mundane, routine, or ordinary the task may be, and feel a deeper sense of gratitude and even joy.
Mindfulness is not an end state. It is a developed quality of the mind that enables us to be in attentive relationship with our interior and exterior lives, and with the world around us. It is, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and as openheartedly as possible.”
May we grow together in mindfulness,