Why Mindfulness?

Why do we practice mindfulness anyway?

The Sunday Meditation for Beginners class was wrapping up, and a student offered that question.

She had been thinking about it that past week, and suggested that we want to be mindful to enable us to reside in the present moment a bit– to take refuge there.  Take a deep breath and just be without being anxious about the future or regretting the past.  I nodded in agreement.  It would accurate to describe the past and future, I added, as nothing more than that: mental constructs that create negativity.  A physicist would likely support that view– that only there is only now.

On my drive home the question stayed with me.  I recently heard Tami Simon, the publisher talking about a talk Tich Nhat Hanh was giving.  Everyone is rushing, he said.  And where are they rushing to?  Their gravestones!  Wayne Dyer was fond of referring to the conclusion of Tolstoy’s The Death Of Ivan Ilyich.  ‘What if everything I’ve done– the way I’ve lived my life is wrong?’ the protagonist asks on his death bed.  One of my favorite Jon Kabat-Zinn meditation guides is his direction to ‘Pay attention as if your life depended on it.’  And then, after a few seconds of silence he continues, ‘…because… it does.’

I remember Eckhart Tolle summarizing human life as the hyphen between the two dates on a gravestone.  Bill Murray, the comedian and actor, as it turns out is an unlikely teacher.  This is not, he reminds us, a dress rehearsal.  This moment.  and this one.  And this one.  are precious.  Mindfulness is nothing more than experiencing them.  Without being drawn away by our interpretation/commentary.

Kabat-Zinn’s attitudinal foundations keep us rooted there: Non-judgement, Patience, Beginner’s Mind, Non-Striving, Trust, Acceptance, Letting Go (Letting Be), Gratitude, Generosity.