I made the ultimate rookie mistake when I began meditating fifteen years ago. I thought the goal of meditation was to clear the mind so not a single thought could intrude upon this illusive, tranquil terrain I was desperate to discover and then safeguard with all my might. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "non-judging awareness." When meditating we are training our brain to observe an experience without lathering on additional storylines, commentary and judgment. It sounds so simple and yet the more we become aware of our thoughts the more we become aware of how much time we are lost in our thoughts. I've spoken about awareness in several posts The Will to Remain Aware, Additional Writing Prompts, Moment-to-Moment Dawns, and most recently Name it to Tame it.
I am relieved to stay I successfully stitched up the poem from the other day. The poem "A Meditative Dance" speaks to this practice of awareness. I think of meditation as a dance. We get lost in thoughts, we come back to the present moment, we get lost again, and come back to present moment...Sometimes I use my breath as my anchor or the contact points between my knees and the ground, but in the summer I especially like to practice sound meditation. Many years ago, I attended a talk given by Sharon Salzberg. Not only is she incredibly wise, but she's hilarious. Her wonderful sense of humor helped me find a bit levity in my practice. Each time I slipped into a sticky stream of thoughts, I would berate myself for screwing up. However, Sharon Salzberg helped me realize that I should actually celebrate the moment I become aware of being lost in thoughts. That moment of waking up from a thought is the practice.
This morning, I began reading Mary Oliver's collection of essays in her recent book, Upstream. She ends her first essay with the words, "Attention is the beginning of devotion." What else is left to say?
The last post of this week will discuss why our positive experiences glide right past us while our negative experiences take hold of us. Stay tuned!