Monday, July 28, 2008

Mindfulness

"Worry never robs tomorrow of it's sorrow; it only saps today of its strength." - A.J. Cronin


Mindfulness is being aware of your present moment. In the twelve steps it is known as living in the present. When we spend time and energy reliving the past, or worrying about the future we take away from our awareness and enjoyment of the present moment. A lack of mindfulness can also cause annoyances, problems, and even pain in our lives. Ever lose your tv remote or keys simply because you were not being mindful when you placed them somewhere? I once had a roommate who lost his keys on an almost daily basis and you can't believe how often he lost the tv remote. I found the remote in the fridge once. In the apartment laundry room and in the dumpster at different times too. Almost all of us have lost something important to us in our lives when not being mindful.

Earlier this summer, while my wife and I were out of town, our middle son, Josh, let our dog Daisy, a valued family member, to run in the front lawn while he was doing some yard work. He was not, however, being mindful and went back in the house without bringing her in. She went for a tour of the neighborhood, as she likes to do whenever she gets the chance to go free, someone picked her up and we have not seen her since. This moment of heedlessness has caused our family a great deal of pain and you would expect it to reinforce the importance of mindfulness to our family. Some lessons are hard learned.

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today." - Matthew 6:34

Yesterday, thanks to the great chocolate chip cookie incident, I spent some time shopping for a new laptop for my wife and some parts for our broken desktop. Because she mostly only cares what the machine looks like, not how it works, Ana chose to go shopping for other things and leave the computer choosing to me. She therefore went to the ATM and withdrew cash she had for this purpose and gave it to me in an envelope. Jake went with me and we spent a good chunk of the day shopping for a laptop. After checking around I settled on a model at Best Buy but I had a 12-step meeting to attend and time was getting short so I headed home to get ready for the meeting. After the meeting Jake and I headed back to Best Buy to pick up the laptop. The model I had chosen was marked down 150 bucks and they change prices on Sunday so I wanted to get in on the good deal. We arrived to find that model, as well as our second choice, was sold out. No problem. We got a rain check and, cash still in hand, headed over to Jakers for some dinner.

This morning I read a story about a monk who was promoted to the rank of teacher. Feeling proud of his accomplishments, the monk went to visit a Zen master. When he arrived he took off his wooden clogs and left them, along with his umbrella, at the door. "Tell me," the master asked of the young teacher, "when you removed your shoes, did you place them to the left or the right of your umbrella?" Of course, the monk didn't remember. Why wasn't he paying attention to his shoes as he removed them? What was he thinking about? Why wasn't he being attentive in that moment? As far as he had traveled on the path, he still had farther to go.

"I ask God to make me willing to see clearly my everyday experiences, to sharpen my perception of how much there is to enjoy, even in ordinary things and happenings. Let me be receptive. Restore to me my capacity for wonder."


I spent several moments contemplating this story and thinking about the importance of mindfulness in my own life. I even took a moment to pray about being more aware of my actions and surroundings as I go through life. After that I went about preparing for the day and getting ready to take Jake to the Air Show I promised him. As I dressed I decided we would stop by Best Buy on our way and see if there were any new deals that beat the one we got a rain check for. When we were ready to leave I went to grab the envelope full of twenties only there was no envelope. I retraced my steps from last night and could not find the envelope anywhere in the house. In fact, I could not remember having it at any time in the house. I searched my truck. Nothing. I began in my mind to retrace my steps from the entire day yesterday. Then I remembered taking from my pocket at Jakers and removing a twenty to pay for dinner. Beyond that I could not recall doing anything with the envelope the rest of the night. I do not know what I was thinking about at the time but I was certainly not being mindful of the present moment as walked out of Jakers leaving an envelope with, well, more money than I care to admit in it, laying on the table.

Today was a miserable day. Jake missed his air show because I spent the day trying to track down the envelope. My wife is furious with me for losing the money and I am feeling horrible about it myself. A couple of employees claim to remember seeing the envelope after I left but no one admits to taking it. Their story is, thinking it was garbage I left behind, they threw it in the trash. I find it difficult to believe someone could pick up a envelope full of twenties and chuck it in the trash without looking inside. But, I had to explore the possibility, so, adding insult to injury, I spent a good portion of the afternoon digging through the dumpster at Jakers. I did not find it and am quite certain it was never there in the first place. Someone surely went home last night with a very, very fat tip. At this point I can only hope they needed it worse than me.

I hope by sharing this story that some of you will learn from my experience and can avoid some painful experience in your own lives by practicing mindfulness.

Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is

in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells

in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.

To wait until tomorrow is too late.


BUDDHA
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