M is for Mindfulness

Pay attention to the small stuff - lichen on a tree

Pay attention to the small stuff - Lichen on a tree, John Muir Woods, WI

Dust motes, ladybugs, lichen…

In her book Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, Dr. Ellen Langer had this to say about mindfulness as it pertains to health:

The simple act of noticing new things—is crucial to our health in several ways. First, when we’re mindless, we ignore all the ways we could exercise control over our health. We turn that control over to the medical world alone and accept limits, which closes us off to the power of possibility.”

In my experience, mindfulness is an agent of transformation and healing.

Mindfulness is simple, but it’s not easy. Mindfulness is the open-hearted energy of being aware—now, right now—in the present moment. It’s the daily cultivation—practice—of touching life deeply. To be mindful is to be present with, and sensitive to, the people we’re with and the things we’re doing, whether it’s raking leaves, washing laundry, brushing our teeth, or peeling potatoes.

At a presentation given by Jon Kabat-Zinn he said:

“Mindfulness points to being aware of, and paying attention to, the moment in which we find ourselves. Our past is gone and our future isn’t here yet. What exists between them is the present moment; the link that holds what was and what will be.”

That brief teaching in mindfulness changed my life.

Mindfulness is our capacity to be fully present in our own life, to be fully aware of what we’re doing as we’re doing it. As we develop our awareness, an inner stillness naturally grows. In this case, stillness doesn’t necessarily mean without motion. Rather, it means to be free from inner tumult; to be tranquil. When we function from a place of tranquility we’re better able to embrace the world and better equipped to respond wisely and lovingly.

It’s my perspective that mindfulness is more than paying attention, it’s paying intention.

Paying attention engages the mind.
Paying intention additionally engages the will. 

Intention is beautifully illustrated in a story that my friend “B” shared with me. She said:

“I used to be part of a dinner book club where each month the group members would contribute a dish for dinner and after what was always a wonderful meal, we discussed an agreed upon book. 

“One month, Debbie’s food offering was a loaf of Challah bread. As we were eating it and praising her efforts, she told us that as she kneaded the bread, she chanted our names; as she braided the bread, she said intentions for the well-being of each person who would later be partaking of the bread.  I remember how honored I was when she told us this.”

When you’re mindful, do you pay attention or intention?

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
               – Laurie Buchanan


© 2010 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved.

22 thoughts on “M is for Mindfulness

  1. Wow, what a powerful message today and beautiful story that does truly illustrate the intention focused energy required to be fully mindful. I realize that many times when I think I am being mindful, it is only partially or halfway mindful – if that makes sense. The good news is that you must first pass the half way point to get all the way on the path to being mindful. Thank you Laurie for changing my day.

  2. Great Blog Laurie
    For the golf enthusiast, Joe Parent’s “Zen Golf” is a masterful work.
    The many different aspects of mindfulness that he brings out in advocating the power of Zen in the mental game that is golf are profound and beautiful.
    The practice of “big mind”, making our awareness as large as possible, encompassing as much as possible of what is.
    The practice of simply noticing what works, and what doesn’t, without doing anything about it, and just letting the subconscious deal with it in it’s own way, is amazing – not easy, and when achieved, superbly powerful.
    Bringing ind an body together in the place.

    On a separate topic, that of inner peace, I recall the first time I really experienced that. I was doing the Landmark Advanced course, about 15 years ago, and we had been doing the “being with” someone else exercise, which involved simple standing there, and being with someone; which I did on as many levels as I could. After about 2 hours I find myself in a state that was sort of like being at sea in a small boat, out over the horizon, on a flat calm day. So profoundly peaceful and alone, and not at all frightening.
    I don’t often achieve the profoundness of that moment, and there does seem to be a lasting shadow, an ongoing access to a sense of peace and tranquility.

    Jewelz in LA, at the Westin, delayed by a day, caught up with another friend – now has 10 hours to kill.

    • Ted – If you enjoyed Joe Parent’s “Zen Golf,” you may well like “Golfing with God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth” by Roland Merullo — the author who wrote “Breakfast with Buddha.” I’m not a golpher, but I read “Golfing with God” because I enjoyed “Breakfast with Buddha” so much. And now I’ve added “Zen Golf” to my must-read list because of your enthusiastic endoresement.

      I very much appreciated the experience you shared about the inner-peace exercise.

      I hope that you and Ailsa are having fun during your unexpected/extended time in Christchurch while waiting for your globe-trotting daugher 🙂

  3. Laurie I am an attention and intention gal. For example, as I wrote the agenda for a community meeting I am co-facilitating today on housing needs, I imagined each member of the Task Force, the Trustee who is presenting and many members of the community participating in the discussion as it unfolds. I heard the sound of the felt on the flipchart paper, I felt the its smoothness under my fingers. I saw my somewhat crooked letters. I smiled. I am off now, clearly holding my personal intention for the meeting – a time of hearing and being heard.

    Thank you Laurie as always for your brilliance.

  4. My mindfulness has a quality of awareness that measures impact of both what is seen and not seen. There is this reaching quality that feels out the future . . . sometimes a hundred years into the future and weighs the quality of my actions (or inactions) of the moment. I am keenly aware and mindful of the people in my life who are not in my presence yet whose lives I impact greatly. There is the ever-present question: who do I want to be on the other side of this moment? All of this happens instantaneously, giving me even greater mindfulness of how time is not what we really think it is. Mindfulness, for me, is more than being in the present moment. It is being aware of all that has past, is, and will be all at once.

    • Barbara – It bow to your style of mindfulness. It reminds me of the Indian’s “Seventh Generation” mindfulness. That’s a phenomenal lifestyle and I’m glad you shared it here with us.

  5. My mindfulness has to take it’s position with everything else that comprises my day. I might have to search my memory for the last place I left the hammer, or what I might have been working on at the time. Very useful visit to the near past. While gearing up for the day and preparing to step out the door, I may be reviewing my agenda, and rearranging it to fit an activity into the time frame. While reading a book I tend to jump in and go with the flow of the action, that’s exactly what the author wants me to do and I’m game. I’ve never read a book just to say to myself, ” I am now reading a book.” My life, like the lives of most other people, is lived on countless different levels, moment by moment. There is a huge cyclorama in my mind to choose from, when I need a bit of nickle knowledge, some first-aid advice, identifying a strange sound outside my window at night, or a million billion other thoughts I might want to access. This doesn’t detract from my being mindful of those I’m speaking with, the pot boiling on the stove, the drop in temperature outside, or the fact that I have spent more time than usual with a routine chore. Nothing like cutting your finger on a paring knife to remind you of being “present” and mindful. Oh, yes, I do reserve a little time for daydreams. It’s very nice for you to bring this up to allow me to ponder it for a while.

    • Sandi – I’ve never heard the term “nickel knowledge” and I love it! You bring up a great point about daydreams — yes, Yes, YES! Always carve out time for daydreaming 🙂

  6. Lots of time I’m not paying attention at all! Just going through the every day necessities of life. I do have the tendency of not living in my moment, but thinking about what I should be doing next and next and next.

    • Beth – your comment “…I’m not paying attention at all!” makes me think of this funny joke I read:

      “Did ya hear about the guy who was so broke he couldn’t afford to pay attention!” 🙂

  7. This is by far such a great way to start off a Monday morning. 🙂 We all could use a beautiful reminder to be more mindful, especially to ourselves, and to our colleagues.

    thanks for such positives miss!

  8. I never ever thought about the distinction between paying attention and paying intention. There is a quality of paying intention that widens awareness, that sees through to the interconnectedness of everything. Thank you for this post. I will be thinking about it throughout the day.

  9. “In my experience, mindfulness is an agent of transformation and healing.”

    And therein lies the most tangible message to be gained from this especially grounded post. I’m afraid to say Laurie that too many of us (myself included) must learn this lesson the hard way. It usually takes a wake-up call for people to engage in willingly what previously was a forced reform as a result of a health scare. Mindfulness is active application of behavior that allows the individual to focus on with accentuated lucidity matters that are at their essence vital towards physical well-being. The mental process will fall into place when the individual understands the central role he or she must maintain in order to achive a connection with a quality life.

    • Sam – I just finished reading YOUR WONDERFUL MOVIE REVIEWS at Wonders in the Dark. I’m now I’m excited to see “The King’s Speech” with Colin Firth – thank you!

      Like you (and so many others) I, too, learn the VERY HARD WAY! Do you suppose it’s part of being human? I have a sneaking suspicion that just might be the case 🙂 I very much appreciate your statement, “The mental process will fall into place when the individual understands the central role s/he must maintain in order to achieve a connection with a quality life.” yes, Yes, Yes!

      Make it a WONDERFUL week, Sam!

  10. Pingback: Catchup Blog 2nd December | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

  11. Pingback: M is for Mindfulness (via Speaking from the Heart) « Love and Happiness: All the Time

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