A Western Tradition of Mindfulness

Now that I have finished the rough draft of my poetry collection, I’ve moved into revision mode. Rather than discuss the minutia of revision, I’ve decided to discuss the way that I can get into the state of mind that I need to be in in order to revise. My mind needs to be free of pointless distraction and that means mindfulness. I’m not claiming expertise here. I’m muddling through trying to figure things out.

Mindfulness almost always comes with some level of meditation. It’s pretty difficult to do one without the other. A lot of people feel resistance to meditation, but it is not something that is completely divorced from Western culture. We just usually call it something else. There are a number of meditation practices that we do all the time without calling it that.

I come from the tradition of Quakerism. My father and his side of the family were all Quakers who attended unprogrammed meetings. What we call praying is sitting in a large circle silently and not speaking until the spirit of God moves us to speak. I’m not a regular attender, but I go every once in a while, and it has to me a double kind of significance. The first is the communal sense of peace that all congregations strive to achieve. The second, of course, is the benefit that meditation gives any person.

In this kind of praying, which is simply meditation, I notice and acknowledge my thoughts, not judging them but allowing myself to be open to them. If there is a religious message, I am open to it. If not, that’s fine too. The wonderful thing about it is that when people meditate in this way, they become more realistic about what the stresses in their lives really are and should be. It is when we slow down and begin to investigate what life really is that we begin to see things realistically.

Our daily struggles seem to pile up, one on another, until they seem too large to manage. However, each one is really nothing. Of course, there are real problems in our lives and the world at large, but these don’t tend to be the things that weigh us down. At least, that is true for me. When the big things happen to me, I take the time and energy to focus on them and deal with them. They are resolved if they are resolvable, and if they are not, I deal with them emotionally.

The small sniggling things are never resolved until I take the time to focus on the moment and know what their true significance is. That is the role in part of most religions. They give perspective in our lives in order to help us achieve meaning.