Such is the subtlety of mindfulness that it’s easy to get muddled about its what’s, how’s and why’s. A common confusion is to divorce, often unintentionally, the cultivation of present-moment awareness from a warm-hearted embrace of the world. If your mindfulness isn’t umbilically connected to your heartfulness, it’s not mindfulness fully bloomed. By contrast, if your mindfulness is allowing you to be more awake to the world around you so that you might respond skilfully, then your practice is in good shape.
A couple of hours after I heard that the Buddhist monk, peace activist and poet Thich Nhat Hanh (aka Thay) had died in January, I received mail in the post with the words “Mindful eating changes everything“ emblazoned across its front. There was something marvellous about the synchronicity of these two events. As I scooped the mail from the letterbox on that cold winter’s morning, still absorbing the news of Thay’s death, the world of mindfulness split neatly in two.
We are always taking refuge in something, often without realizing it. Many of the ways in which we direct our lives are unconscious attempts to find security. We take refuge in people and places, beliefs and ideals, work and hobbies, alcohol and drugs, money and status, pleasure and distraction – not to mention all the inventive ways we have found to avoid pain and discomfort (for a while).