We put a high premium on thinking. Aside from the fact that it is the mind's default state, our culture makes thinking the object of highest praise and highest priority. Thinking is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Where we go off balance in ourselves and in creation is that place in which we idolize the intellect by, among other things, discounting intuition and sensibilities. We also rob ourselves of our sense of the abundance of time, of the now.
Eastern spirituality has recognized this for thousands of years, hence the Buddhist concept, "no mind," or "Buddha mind," which is the center of Zen spirituality. Christianity, although of Western culture and therefore -- in my opinion -- too focused on thinking and analysis, also has its "centering prayer."
So now we are reading Sue Silvermarie, who says that she, when living a day without time, moves "through her in grace / no more ahead of myself, or behind / than a tiger, than a seagull." Thinking eats up time; it's one of those things that make us believe we do not have enough if it. Silvermarie calls a day without time, without thinking, "a slow present." (There is a neat pun here: present in the sense of "now" and in the sense of "gift.")
Diane Mariechild, in today's reflection (Open Mind -- Womens' Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful) tells us that mindfulness -- or not thinking -- helps us "cultivate the awareness of a day unfolding." She makes several suggestions:
When you are sitting, know that you are sitting; feel that you are sitting
Wait calmly for the next thing to happen
When walking, be mindful of your feet on the pavement
Focus on your breathing.
Don't think about it! Simply turn your attention to your body and the created world around you as it is in the present moment rather than to your mind and its incessant thinking. And when thinking intrudes -- as it inevitably will -- simply acknowledge that you are thinking (or planning, or worrying, or...) without judging it or becoming upset at yourself, and turn your attention back to the present moment.
It takes practice. But each time you practice, each time you have to label your thoughts and turn back to the present moment, you are becoming stronger in being attentive.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.