I used to believe that through meditation, I could realize ultimate reality/God. Now, having lowered my unrealistic expectations, I'd be happy if I could go through the rest of my life without losing another glove.
A much-beloved glove, insofar as apparel can be loved. LIghtweight, waterproof, comfortable, thin. I'd been wearing it on rainy day dog walks here in Oregon (so I wore them a lot).
Headed to the recycling center on a cold, wet, windy afternoon, I decided to take the gloves along. I walked to the car, tossed them on the front seat, and drove into town with our recyclables. After depositing stuff in the proper bins I took my gloves off, opened the driver's side door, and tossed the gloves back onto the passenger seat.
Or so I thought.
After a few more errands I glanced at the seat and saw only one glove. Searching under the seats and everywhere else I could think to look, still only one glove. I drove back to the recycling center in the dark, pointed the headlights where I'd parked the car, and found... no glove.
I spent a lot of time dealing with a lack of mindfulness.
Thinking back, I couldn't really remember much about taking the gloves off. I was focused on the next to-do, grocery shopping. When I tossed the "pair" on the seat, I must not have noticed that one glove had dropped to the ground.
I'm enjoying the book (haven't received the gloves yet). I've read a lot about mindfulness from the Buddhist perspective, but obviously it hasn't sunk in sufficiently to make me aware of where my gloves are at all times.
The authors of "Fully Present" are Susan Smalley, Ph.D., a behavior geneticist, and Diana Winston, a woman with twenty years of mindfulness training under her Buddhist belt, including a year as a Buddhist nun. They run the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, so approach mindfulness with a pleasing blend of science and artistry.
I've been headed in the mindful direction ever since I realized that my other-worldly focus in meditation wasn't taking me where I wanted to go.
The India-based teachings of Radha Soami Satsang Beas that I'd been following emphasized detaching one's consciousness from the physical world, thereby "liberating the soul." The body and its senses were conceived as detrimental to spiritual progress.
For example, a mantra was prescribed to turn the meditator's awareness away from thoughts, sensations, emotions, and such, as these are believed to prevent entry into the third eye or "eye center" in the middle of the forehead. Repetition of the mantra wasn't supposed to be done in harmony with the breath -- which would bring attention to the body.
Problem is, we humans have bodies. In fact, the overwhelming evidence is that we are bodies, not anything supernatural, like "soul" or "spirit."
So I've decided to throw in my bet with the anti-Pascal's wager. Meaning, that since it is much more likely that this is my one and only life, it makes sense to live it as fully as possible in the here and now rather than the there and then of either an imagined afterlife or earthly future. As I said a few years ago, and still believe now:
Pascal's Wager is founded on a belief that we can know God's payoff. The anti-Wager is a more honest bet: nobody knows what will occur in the next life, so we need to make the most of this one.
Hence, mindfulness is my focus now, not a form of meditation that distances me from the world, my body, and physical sensations. In their book, Smalley and Winston say:
Mindfulness is the art of observing your physical, emotional, and mental exeriences with deliberate, open, and curious attention. And although it is an "art" that can be cultivated through a daily formal meditation practice (which we talk about throughout the book), you can easily practice it instantaneously to be aware of your present-moment experience anytime in the course of a day.
Yesterday I engaged in Phase 2 of my annual Tao of Leaf Raking. After I've used a backpack blower and rake to deal with the prodigious amount of leaves that fall on our rural property every autumn, I move to hand-picking the remainder that lodge in bushes, heather, rocks, ground cover, and such that are unblowable/unrakable.
The task is highly enjoyable for me.
Minimal thinking involved. I get a close-up look at almost every corner of our extensive yard. Results are instantaneous and pleasing as a flowering heather with a bunch of discordant oak leaves scattered through it is transformed into simply what it is.
That's what "Fully Present" says mindfulness mainly consists of.
Becoming aware of what actually is happening in the world, and the life we're living -- as contrasted with being excessively distracted by concepts, imaginings, anxieties, and other cogitations that aren't really necessary for here-and-now experiencing.
Our bodies simply function as they always do: pumping blood, taking in information from the senses, and experiencing sensory and emotional responses to stimuli. Our minds interpret these direct physical experiences -- and often create stories around them -- in ways that may increase discomfort or suffering and create more reactivity in our minds. We can short-circuit this reactivity by returning our attention to the felt experience of our bodies.