I tore the tendon in my right ankle while climbing some stairs. The specialist told me to wear a supportive boot for 30 days, 24 hours a day, in the hope of warding off surgery. That was three or four days ago. A long road ahead, a short road behind, yet already I’m comprehending lessons in mindfulness this little blip in life has given rise to.
What else are the little lessons in life except summonings to subjective truths, and what are those except lessons in mindfulness? I believe we must pay heed to the changes of life, that they all contain things we’ve failed to understand. Perhaps you will find some insight from three of these fruit I have gathered.
1. Each Small Experience Contains Self-Determination
Every trip to the store, every trip to the park, each little round of blocks sitting and playing with my son… they’re all subtly different. They’re all absolutely unique and carry slightly different songs. When every walk carries effort and every move from standing to sitting takes concentration, it’s easy to stay fully conscious as each part of an experience unfolds.
The doubled effort of going back up an aisle to get something you forgot to put in your cart calls you to make each decision once. You can undo a decision to buy something easily, before you commit to it, but you can’t readily undo a decision to not get something. Opportunity is most easily gathered when it first presents itself, and every choice we fail to make determines our future choices and, to some extent, struggles even more than the choices we do.
Every interaction and movement contains parts of a larger journey, and in mindfulness each part is a decision about the rest of the journey. Be fully aware and every day is a packed treasure chest of self-knowledge and determinations about who you are… which is also who you will be.
2. All Experiences Contain This Moment And This Moment Carries All Experiences
Every time I’ve gone to the store, every time I’ve gone to the park, every time I’ve played with my son… have all been the same time. I’ve always worn this supportive boot, in a sense. And even as I wear the boot in these rounds, I also don’t wear it… because it’s a variation on a tune I’ve heard before.
In mindfulness, each small experience carries the echoes of the past refrains of similar experiences, and in that understanding the past refrains unwittingly carried premonitions of the current experiences. It’s the difference of the tunes that has the unique song and lessons we’re confronted with just at the current moment. The grass of the front yard has never ceased being fragrant, but when we forget ourselves we don’t notice it… but when we do again and we’re mindful, all the times we’ve passed the front yard become scented.
Pause mindfully in the hallway, and you can hear the songs you’ve sung there.
As I walk the front yard in my hobbled fashion, I know there will be a time when I can walk it again freely. There’s a foreknowledge in mindful experience. Those echoes of the future combine with echoes of the past; they share a common song. Those songs are our songs… music being sung by particular consciousnesses in particular places or times. In mindfulness, you can hear yourself singing across time.
3. The Realms of Mind, Body, and Spirit Bear No Differentiation
There’s a slope of experience… a slope of mind, body, and spirit. In my spiritual practice of meditation, I encounter my past and future selves even while the throbbing of my ankle brings subtle variations to my tune of spiritual rising.
The demand of mindful movement created by injury means mindful ritual. The methods of my physical movement continuously change how my reading and research take place, just as it changes my spiritual practices. Physical posture is an indivisible part of mental and spiritual endeavor. Mental posture is an indivisible part of bodily movement and spiritual endeavor. Spiritual posture is an indivisible part of physical effort and mental effort.
I had a mild depression in the first 24 hours of being bound, a sense of limitation. But there is no such limitation, not really. I have always worn the boot and I have always not worn it, if I center. In my case, this particular injury is a call to integrate all aspects of that which I do, in order to proceed and simply maintain enthusiasm. Integrating it, I am more productive than ever… physically slower perhaps, but everything is a targeted movement as a result. Speed and productivity are very different, and happiness is more a question of integrative effort than capability.
Lessons in Mindfulness: Faith and Burden
One top-level, abstract idea of faith is a certain belief that things will work out for the best. That’s a future-based interpretation, and in my current circumstance would mean belief that I’ll again be able to move without being encumbered. I have that faith but it’s useless by itself, in terms of the cultivation of happiness.
Happiness is about the current moment, of course. You can’t be happy by believing that you’ll be happy in the future… you have to be happy just now, as things lie. And that’s the deeper faith, the faith that’s been resurrected in my freshened unity of experience and time.
Faith is the proper understanding that things have already worked out for the best. If life is a staircase climbing toward a particular resolution, then faith is the understanding that this current step is a new height reached combined with the knowledge that the staircase leads ever upward. In that faith, there can be no burden. Everything that seems like a burden is just another step and a unique variation on our songs, and from these heights we can gaze outward and see further and more enlightened horizons than ever. Faith, in mindfulness, is a spiritual understanding of happiness.
I wish you the most wonderful weekend full of silver linings,