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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

From Winter to Summer in 3.5 Seconds

A few years ago, we had the St. Patrick’s day snowstorm that left over two feet of snow. This March, we are experiencing record breaking warm temperatures. A local golf course opened last weekend, a full nineteen days earlier than ever before. We are having weather that is suitable for high summer. August in March.

This weather is a clear reminder of variability, or what the Buddha called impermanence. Weather has always varied and records have always been broken. Is this record warmth evidence for global warming? This is a scientific question and one that I cannot answer because I don’t know the science well enough. But it sure seems like it.

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I do know a couple things about human perception. We are really bad at understanding variability. This is why we need statistics, and even then it can be hard to appreciate the meaning of the numbers. We are really bad at retrospective memory. This is why it is important to look at the numbers moving forward. We are highly impressionable. An 80-plus degree day in March in the Northern climes of Vermont makes a BIG impression: “OMG, the world is melting!”

Given the limitations to perceptions mentioned above, I think it’s best not to overreact to what is happening. Of course, we are always challenged to live in this moment whatever it brings. Today, it is “hot Buddha sweats” tomorrow it may be “cold Buddha shivers.” Yet, there is an eeriness to this current weather. I can’t stop talking about it. I don’t know what it means.

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Uncertainty often prevails as the challenge of this moment. How can I deal with this uncertainty? Bringing my attention to breathing is a good start. Next, I can reflect on impermanence–things are changing and I can’t control them. This is something of a relief. I don’t have to be responsible for making that change stop (which, of course, is impossible to do). If I relinquish control, I can relax into this moment.

Paradoxically, by giving up control I feel more in control. If I’m surfing, I can’t control the frequency or intensity of the waves. I can, however, ride them as they are. Mindfulness is like surfing. It doesn’t change what is happening but it gives us a way to revise our relationship to what is happening. Instead of being overwhelmed by the crash of the surf, we proactively engage and “go with the flow.”

It’s not surprising that I’m dreaming of surfing today as the temperature climbs to 80 degrees. Surf’s up! The only problem is that I’m 200 miles from the ocean.

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