Mindfulness

The Mosaic of Life

MosaicWork-Trencadis-Gaudi-

A while back, when I was in the midst of the certification in mindfulness facilitation program at UCLA, I was asked to write a paper on the topic of diversity, and I noticed an immediate sense of dread when the topic came up—followed by some major resistance.

It’s a sticky subject for me—one I’d much rather sweep under the rug than examine. And, because of this, I’m going to share what I wrote…

When I think about the topic of diversity, I flash to my “sheltered” childhood—which was utterly devoid of it. I grew up in a predominantly-Caucasian, upper middle class, quaint, rural town in New Hampshire. Monochromatic white saltbox Colonials lined the center of town, offset by swaths of apple orchards and strawberry fields.

Every harvest season, a line of rickety, lime-green painted school buses would roll into town. And I remember staring at those buses, feeling this weird fascination with their “otherness” back then. I later found out they were packed with Jamaican migrant workers hired to work the orchards and fields.

Reflecting back on this now, I feel a sharp knot in my left side, just below my ribs. My breathing is shallow. My brow furrowed. I feel ashamed. Sad.

And now, opening deeper to these feelings, I’m hearing my father’s voice echoing in my mind. I don’t remember him ever commenting on the migrant workers—he always just drove passed them in silence (without even a nod of recognition). But, occasionally, we’d get out of our small town bubble and take a family drive into Boston—the “big” city. The environmental palette shifted with each passing mile, gradually diversifying the further we drove from town—from the color of the landscape to the color of the people.

And the color of Dad’s behavior always shifted along with it.

“Lock your door,” he’d demand in a firm (yet slightly panicked tone) the minute it was clear we’d entered the city. His grip on the steering wheel would tighten. His face, redden. Every other minute, he’d grumble “Massachusetts driver!” when he got cut off or couldn’t pull into a lane he needed to be in.

And every time he saw a black man male driving a nice car, he’d point and announce, “drug dealer.”

Ignoring my father’s racial slurs, I never thought about how they might have affected me. But now that I’m deliberately looking… I see the residue is there. His words ingrained in my cells—impossible to expunge.

I want to pretend like I haven’t been affected by my father’s view of the world. But I have. Even though I reject it, I still feel it in the most subtle ways. To this day, I still hear his voice saying “drug dealer” in my mind when I’m driving and see a black man behind the wheel of a nice car. The thought appears. His voice ringing in my ears. I recognize it as not my own.

But it still breaks my heart.

Contemplating all this now, there’s a quote from Making the Invisible Visible: Healing Racism in Our Buddhist Communities that comes to mind:

“I want to walk my Dharma talk and sit the way I live: trusting in the interdependence of ALL things (including all cultures and beings) and knowing that the wholeness we seek comes from including all the pieces of the beautiful mosaic of life.”

The deeper I dive into my mindfulness practice, the more I see (and feel) the wholeness of our collective existence—and how accepting “otherness” and diversity is key to seeing the complete picture of ourselves. Perhaps some people don’t want to see themselves completely.

But I do.

Finding One Another (Through Vulnerability)

I have something to admit.

All those feelings Sharon Salzberg mentions in that quote featured above—I’ve been feeling them. Big. Time. I’ve been seeing (and experiencing) lessons in impermanence left and right. And it’s got my metaphorical panties in a wad. Sure, from a philosophical standpoint, I “get” that it’s the nature of things. Change is the only constant. Yada, yada…

But I’m still struggling with accepting this fact. I constantly find myself trying to dig my heels into some semblance of firmer ground, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that it’s all just sand slipping through the hour glass. And I’ve been avoiding sharing any of this with you because there’s this little voice inside me that keeps saying: “You’re a mindfulness facilitator. You should have a handle on managing your angst by now. The people who read your blog don’t want to hear about all the uneasiness you’re facing. Chill out, buck up—and get your act together!”

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Tight Spots

I recently had my first MRI (due to an infection in my arm from a kitten bite)… And the MRI wasn’t a fun experience. But, wow—what a great opportunity to observe my mind! It’s interesting how things that trigger me often prove to be my biggest teachers.

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The Courage to Be Gentle

THE COURAGE TO BE GENTLE

It takes a lot of courage to be gentle in the face of things I find challenging.

Embarrassing…

Humiliating…

I want to harden

When I’ve made a mistake…

All I want to do is ROAR.

It takes a lot of courage to be gentle.

Now I soften.

I often find myself wanting to harden when life feels difficult, or when I’ve made a mistake or feel embarrassed in some way…. My body automatically tenses in these situations—and so do my emotions.

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Being Mindful of “Good” Judgment

EncouragingWords

One of the biggest things I’ve recognized on this path of mindfulness is how judgmental my mind tends to be. It judges people, things, experiences…. Whatever it encounters (especially if it’s something new), my mind tends to slap a label on it. And I’m not talking about objective labeling here…. I’m talking about the reactive deeming of whatever the object of my mind’s attention is as “bad” or “good.” “Wrong” or “right.” “The worst” or “the best.” Or some variation in between.

Basically, I’m talking about labels that judge.

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Mental Noting

thinking

One mindfulness technique I often use when meditating is called “mental noting” or “labeling.” Science has proven that noting or labeling a thought as it arises regulates the emotional circuitry in the brain, creating a calming effect in the body and giving separation from the thought. I find the technique quite helpful. Perhaps you will, too! 🙂

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Personal Space

space

(image from http://www.toonpool.com)

I’ve been thinking about the concept of “personal space” lately… How it’s not just a physical thing—how we can also experience personal space in an emotional and mental way, too…. I’ve come to realize how important it is to my well being that I get hefty doses of all three varieties. When I’m getting “enough personal space,” I feel comfortable and at ease.

And when I don’t get enough of it—I feel edgy. Suffocated. Compressed. Panicky.

I’m a tall woman (6’0 to be precise). So, I’ve always been acutely aware of my personal space in the physical sense—especially not having enough of it….My pants and shirts are often too short, and the beds I sleep in—never long enough; cars rarely have enough leg room for me; tables are often too short to cross my legs underneath…. And the list goes on.

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