“The more you can be completely now, the more you realize that you’re always standing in the middle of a sacred circle. Whether you’re brushing your teeth or wiping your bottom. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it now.” – Pema Chodron, Comfortable With Uncertainty
Mindfulness is a practice of wisdom and compassion. As Jonathan Foust writes, mindfulness asks two questions: what is happening? and can I be with it? In order to get to the second question, you must acknowledge the first. This doesn’t mean you have to like it. Instead, a curious awareness of what is happening right now pulls us out of our rumination about the past and our anticipation of the future. It reminds us of our radical resilience in the face of the circumstances and conditions that characterize our unique experience.
The video below, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, was presented by David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College’s commencement in 2005. For me, it suggests that our presence, our dwelling in the now, gives us a choice in how to respond. We can choose to stay in auto-pilot, a default mode of avoiding boredom and seeking novelty, or, we can observe with an open, optimistic mind and heart. Most of life is the ordinary. But it becomes extraordinary when we actually live it. Really, really live it.
Pema Chodron shares a story of an arrogant, proud lady who was seeking enlightenment. Asking around, she was told to visit a wise old woman who lived in a cave atop a high mountain. “I want to attain enlightenment” she declared, “show me how.” Chodron continues, “Whereupon, the wise old woman turned into a demon, brandishing a great big stick, and started chasing her, saying, ‘Now! Now! Now!‘” And that’s our reminder.
What “gets you to now?” In our Sunday Meditation Group, participants shared the following: people’s reactions, snuggling, nature, birds, sounds, morning, light, meditation, reminders (mindfulness bell apps), luminous beings, and weather.