It’s foliage season in Northern Vermont. Fabulous displays of color across the Green Mountains. As their name implies, they are covered with trees that are throwing off color; wild screaming death throes.
People go out of their way for
fireworks and foliage.
Seeking these displays of
Forgetting they live in brilliant
I once saw fireworks,
a private showing
for the Guru’s devotees.
At a time when I was in love with
Intoxicated after chanting the
108 names of Shiva.
The display, matchless only to
the explosions of blue,
roiling in my consciousness
Years later I moved from this ecstasy
to the quiet solitude of breathing.
Its leaves changing color with each
ten thousand times a day
People flock to my Vermont home.
Cue up along country highways
for red, orange, yellow, and green
They make a deal with reality,
“I’ll look at your becoming and
only when it is colorful
and when I get to go back to sleep
Not so bad; just a handful of days
to know who we are,
to look over that precipice of
This precarious life.
To know we are falling towards our
If we could smile into that knowing,
loose our grip and lean into gravity,
we’d see that despair as joy,
that precarious is precious,
that ending is beginning.
Then each day is the 4th of July and autumnal New
England.Each moment that explosive bliss of
Naomi Morris wrote an article for the L. A. Times entitled “Fully experiencing the present: a practice for everyone, religious or not.” The article focuses on the pioneering mindfulness work of Jon Kabat-Zinn (featured here on Mindfulness Matters a couple of times). Jon has taught mindfulness through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a secularized practice of training attention. In the article he says,
“I don’t have to use the word ‘spiritual,'” he said. “Part of it is the
power of silence and stillness. And part of that power is the power of
healing that happens when you move from the domain of doing to being.
In fact, there have been rabbis, priests and even an imam who have
taken Kabat-Zinn’s eight-week MBSR training course and told him that it
deepened their experience of their own faiths.
The imam told him the practice was “totally consistent” with Islam,
Kabat-Zinn said. Priests said MBSR reminded them of why they first went
into the seminary and allowed them to transmit their faith more
effectively to their flocks. Kabat-Zinn noted that even Mother Teresa
described her conversations with God as mutual silence.
“Is silence Jewish or Christian or Buddhist? Is awareness Jewish or
Christian?” said Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness principles are found on every
continent in every culture, he added.”We’re born with this capacity.
It’s about cultivating it.”
Secular doesn’t suggest a dilution of the dharma. It’s intact in MBSR; just not explicit.
Mindfulness, thanks to articles like this, is becoming a household word. MBSR has gone from the original Stress Reduction Clinic at the U Mass Medical Center in 1979 to 200 medical centers worldwide and hundreds of individual practitioners like myself who teach mindfulness in their communities.
Join the revolution!
In an age when the work week enroaches more and more into the hours of each day and even reaches its hand into weekends, holidays, and vacations the notion arises that we need to have good work-life “balance.” I would like to suggest, however, that work-life balance is a myth, and a dangerous one at that.
One night during my training, long after all the other doctors had fled the hospital, I found a senior surgeon still on the wards working on a patient note. He was a surgeon with extraordinary skill, a doctor of few words whose folksy quips had become the stuff of department legend. “I’m sorry you’re still stuck here,” I said, walking up to him.
He looked up from the chart. “I’m not working tomorrow, so I’m just fine.”
I had just reviewed the next day’s operating room schedule and knew he had a full day of cases. I began to contradict him, but he held his hand up to stop me.
“Time in the O.R.,” he said with a broad grin, “is not work; it’s play.”
There is no duality for this surgeon, no opposition of forces. Work is play, and thereby presumably joyful.
“We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold
competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way. These hidden
human dynamics of integration are more of a conversation, more of a synthesis
and more of an almost religious and sometimes almost delirious quest for
meaning than a simple attempt at daily ease and contentment. “
In his first book on working life, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, he offered this bit of wisdom:
“Human beings must, in a
sense, always, in order to create meaning, in order to create an ecology of belonging
around them, must bring the central questions of their life into whatever they
are doing most of the time.”
Well, that would be work.