In a recent comment, one of Mindfulness Matter’s readers shared her questions in the wake of the loss of a loved one. She wondered whether mindfulness was really as simple as it is sometimes portrayed. She also wondered how to handle the grief in a mindful way.
What I typically say, and did in a recent post, is that mindfulness IS simple, yet not necessarily easy. That’s an important distinction. In fact, it may be quite hard to be mindful, but what mindfulness is or is not is not complicated.
What is this moment? The psychological present is about three seconds long and that could be considered “this moment.” Anything that is happening within those three seconds is part of the landscape of now. Of course, this now occurs in the context of some activity — what is happening now? Driving, walking, daydreaming, meditating, are all activities that can happen now; working, talking, playing, too, whatever is going on. The activity sets the vicinity of this moment.
As I just mentioned, whatever is happening now is part of now. Mindfulness is not about excluding some experiences to privilege others. So, of course, the experience of grief would be included in this moment. The question of mindfulness revolves around the question of awareness. If you are aware that you are thinking of your loved one, then you are being mindful of a memory, image, feeling related to your loved one. If you are swept away by that memory, image, and feelings and lose touch with your sense of awareness then you are not being mindful in that particular instant. When you recognize where your attention is at then you’ve once again come to mindfulness.
Here you have a choice about where you are attention goes. Mindfulness is not about orchestrating what is happening now, rather, it is opening to what is occurring now — approaching it with interest, even if it might be uncomfortable, scary, or painful. This moment can be dull, poignant, or exciting. The practice of mindfulness does not seek to push anything away or pull anything towards. It is about allowing these experiences to come into our field of awareness and to touch them, get close to them, as much as we can. So, the invitation is to be open to whatever unfolds in the grief space of loss.