Learning to Surf
So , I went to Hawaii and learned to surf. Sort of. Not on a board in the ocean like my son the real surfer does, but in my head. I'm still a beginner, but it's a start at least.
I decided not to work at all- that is write-- which some people don't think is work anyway-- and to be honest, it isn't, in the same way digging a ditch is, or being an ER nurse, or a teacher.
(Actually, I can't even think about nurses and teachers right now, what with the crushing news from Florida. My daughters are teachers. One is a principal. I am so grateful for those high school kids who may do what none of us have been able to since Columbine, and get some sensible gun laws passed.)
I know I fret more than is healthy. But it's hard to curb in this crazy world. Which may be why the book I picked up in an Episcopal church thrift store on Kaua'i, Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, was just the Lenten nudge I needed to help me still my squirrel brain. Kabat-Zinn observed that thoughts are like waves, sometimes big, sometimes little, sometimes choppy, and the trick is not, as I had always believed "mindfulness" and "meditation" were supposed to do-- make them go away to find my inner peace-- but rather, to hear them, see them, acknowledge it all-- and then learn to "surf" the big waves, tides, winds, and currents. Pay attention to them, sort them out, and then, perhaps, call my senator, and move on with my day.
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing," he writes.
He says it's not just paying attention to the stories I want to tell you, that is one step ahead of things-- he says that restorative, peaceful mindfulness begins with paying attention to small things with no tales to tell --from how I hold my cup of coffee to setting down the iPhone and leaving it on the kitchen counter-- for the day. This extends to people, and reserving judgment, including of myself -- which is interesting, and maybe this all familiar to you, but it is news to me, and makes sense-- because I am my toughest critic, so I should be nicer to me.
Of course "practicing" kindness and generosity in Hawaii on vacation with grandchildren, fresh pineapple, and sand in my toes is about as easy as mindfulness gets. (I'll let you know if I can pull it off at an assembly meeting.)
I did realize, while I was clearing my mind as the sun rose and the albatrosses clacked, cardinals flitted, roosters crowed, and the palms swayed, that this type of paying attention is a lot like moose hunting. (Except warmer and sunnier.) I love sitting silently in the tree stand watching as the world wakes up. Paying attention is a kind of prayer, which is a kind of meditation, which is mindfulness. Who knew?
I suspect pastor Ron Horn does. He's a photographer and wildlife, and especially birds, are his specialty. He sits still and pays a lot of attention, and then shares what he sees. Tonight at 6:00 in the library Ron is giving a slide show of his African photo safari. And, then at 7-8:30 in the school there is a meet and greet for a school superintendent candidate. I suppose that will involve judgment. We will have to trust the school board to make their choice mindfully, right?