October 4, 2021
If you’re curious, as I was, you can read more about Kabat-Zinn’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness/dp/1401307787.
For whatever reason, I found myself restless, in search of something to help settle my mind. Just four years into a career post-Master’s degree, I sensed that God wanted to expand aspects of my life. However, I wasn’t sure what that meant or what to do.
I’d always considered myself to be a highly focused and ambitious person, likely a combination of my natural temperament and environmental expectations. So you can imagine the difficulty I experienced when I struggled to focus my ambitions and quiet myself long enough to hear God’s voice. Ever been there?
Here’s how Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness: “paying attention [to the world] in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
This was a bit obscure for me at the time. So let me share my own interpretation.
The audacity and simplicity of this truth offered me great comfort in 2005. While I felt the pull towards more, I also needed to embrace what I had in the moment. And after surrendering to this newfound space, the path presented itself more clearly. As a result, I transitioned back into the academic environment, beginning a doctoral program that would shift my life in unexpected and adventurous ways.
As life would have it, however, I had no idea how valuable this six-word mantra would become just seven years later, a time I’d confront my mom’s terminal cancer diagnosis and subsequent death. Little did I know how much I’d need to lean into each breath, each sensation in my body, each word that flowed from my mom’s mouth, and each whisper from God’s loving heart to my broken one.
Taken together, mindfulness anchored me in the midst of life’s greatest blow.
Day by day, I began to shift away from strict adherence to my ‘to-do’ lists. On the contrary, I paused to consider what might be more important in the moment. In addition, I began to discipline myself to observe what was happening both in and around me. From heart check to subsequent heart check, I discovered a few things.
Friend, at some point in your life, you may begin to wonder, “Will things always be this way?” In addition, you might be asking yourself now, “Will I always be this way?” Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed, angry, irritable, or disconnected. Maybe you, like I did, feel, restless about what’s on the horizon. Trust me, I get it! You might be navigating grief, uncertain about how you’ll survive life’s emotional depths.
Embracing what you have now can help bring you back to yourself. As you begin to observe both things happening around you, along with the rises and falls within you, something shifts. (FYI, in case you’re wondering … creating space to be present with yourself isn’t an abandonment of losses you’ve experienced).
Just this morning, as I sat in my backyard sipping a hot cup of hazelnut coffee, I came back to myself. I fought and won the battle to start my day focused on tasks. Instead of scrolling through a host of e-mails and reviewing my planner, I chose to close my eyes and listen instead. The pitter patter of my Beagle’s nails against the concrete patio, sounds of shifting birds in the trees, and the monotony of my own heartbeat filled the space.
It felt nice to return home, yet again.
What would it look like for you to do the same?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Do me a favor, and leave a comment below. ⬇️
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