This evening I taught a workshop on Mindfulness and Meditation, two subjects which are linked and overlap but which have different connotations and characteristics. Having had this workshop open for booking for many weeks, maybe 8 or more, and having a rough idea of what I wanted to cover, it still didn’t stop me from “last minute syndrome” as I sat down to start writing the notes around midday today.
Earlier this morning I’d been contemplating a practice I’ve been cultivating over recent weeks, consciously, of noticing people I come into contact with and acknowledging their presence with a “How are you today?” if its someone I don’t know, but I’m interacting with, say, a checkout cashier, barista, or train guard. In my own way I consider that a gesture of both mindfulness and kindness recognising others and exchanging something more personal and caring than a pure transaction.
So full flow, tapping away at my keyboard this lunchtime, I was annoyed by unexpected visitors to the house, doubly annoyed by them going to the wrong door, the door we’ve only opened twice in fifteen years, and triply annoyed when I saw them holding “The Watchtower”.
My response should, of course, have been “How are you today”, or at least should have started as such.
Alas mindfulness took a back seat and my precise greeting probably is best not printed here. There were Fs in it. It wasn’t polite.
As the afternoon went on, I was rattled by my response. In no small part was it reactivity – uninvited strangers walking up the garden path, their car parked blocking next doors drive, a gate shut in my path as they left. Reactions by themselves are neutral, negative reactivity, the instant verbally aggressive response, is anything but neutral – it is a stressor to myself and a stressor to my visitors. It’s also downright rude.
“Awareness of non awareness” is a staging point in improving mindfulness – and there is a paradox here – when you are aware – mindful – of non awareness then you are being aware! Like the two sides of a coin the view changes but the object remains unchanged.
So why do I write about this? It’s hardly a glowing testimony for a yogi?
Well, honesty. In a world of yoga inspired fluffy unicorns and spiritual bypassing, let’s be honest most yogis aren’t perfect. We’re human, and at times our reactions don’t live up to ideals. We reflect, learn and try better next time.
There are no short cuts to a mindful outlook. You try, you succeed, you fail, you fail some more, you try again, you make small wins. You learn, you reflect, you try. Trying, trying some more.
Today, I didn’t live up to my expectations for myself. I’ll exercise kindness to myself, Ahimsa, and look for the positives today and other days – one thing I can’t do is change the past, neither can I be certain of the future, or what reactions I may have in that uncertain future. Mindfulness is a practice of here and now.
As a postscript I spent some time looking for an email address for the local Kingdom Hall, not easy! Eventually found one, and sent an apology, quickly acknowledged gracefully back, for which I feel more at ease.
And next time I see Jehovah’s Witnesses in the town with their stand, rather than walk by or around, I may just stop and ask, “How are you today?”.
“Between the stimulus and the response there is a space, and in that space lies our power and our freedom” – Victor Frankl