"Our soul must perform two duties. The one is that we must reverently wonder and be surprised. The other is that we must gently let go and let be." Julian of Norwich

...Cancer teaches both!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Awaken Attentiveness and Appreciation

When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being.
They asked him, "Are you a god?"

"No," he replied.
"Are you a reincarnation of god?"

"No," he replied.
"Are you a wizard, then?" "No."
"Well, are you a man?" "No."
"So what are you?" they asked,

being very perplexed.
"I am awake."

To awaken attentiveness and appreciation is to enter in to the realm of “mindfulness”. It is about being intentionally aware of thoughts and actions in the present moment. It is also about seeing deeply into the nature of things and perceiving and appreciating the connections that exist between all things. I see this happening at an “inner level” as we become more conscious of our mind/body processes, and at an “outer level”, as we develop the “ecological imagination” needed to see our relationship with the environment that surrounds us. These are not separate processes and both are important towards seeing the connections between our mind, body, and the world in which we live and breathe.

Mindfulness figures prominently in new approaches to stress reduction and healing as developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachussetts Medical Center. The application of mindfulness in stress reduction is well covered in Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness”. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as:

“…moment to moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moments thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.

Kabat-Zinn describes our usually encumbered minds as often preoccupied with regrets over the past and worry and anxiety over the future. This can be particularly true when we are suffering an illness such as cancer. Our minds become literally flooded with worries, fears, fantasies, and plans related to our diagnosis, treatments, and the possible course of the disease. The result is that we live in a state of unawareness, or un-mindfulness.

“When unawareness dominates the mind, all our decisions and actions are affected by it. Unawareness can keep us from being in touch with our own body, its signals and its messages. This in turn can create many physical problems for us, problems we don’t even know we are generating ourselves. And living in a chronic state of unawareness can cause us to miss much of what is most beautiful and meaningful in our lives.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Awakening attentiveness and appreciation involves a discipline, or practice, of clearing our minds and bringing our attention to where it is needed, beginning with our breath. Mindfulness meditation, a practice that derives from the Buddhist tradition, is used to develop a deeper and more focused capacity for awareness and attention.

Awakening attentiveness allows us to enter into a deeper level of self awareness about our mind/body, its relationship to the environment, and its healing needs. It also leads us to places of profound awe and wonder as we begin to appreciate anew the incredible miracle of creation and life.

Rob; mostly napping; in Vancouver

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” Sylvia Boorstein

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