No, I don’t mean waistline, though that does happen with time, trust me.
I have for most of my life been aware that our experience wherever we focus our attention expands. This is a core of mindfulness practice. A kernel of conversation with my mom recently made me appreciate where this originated in me. Because I was the first child born of my parents in their early 20s and because they had few resources at that time, my mom apparently gave Toddler Me a single cookie as a special treat and say something like, “Make it last, because that is all you can have right now.”
So I proceeded to take a full hour to eat my cookie. I never once remember feeling deprived. I appeared to enjoy the cookie thoroughly.
It occurred to me that this was the seed of mindfulness unknowingly planted. Today, I find myself using the same approach whenever I start to think something is lacking in my life. I focus on some mundane thing and find great happiness there. I experience the sun and rain in my bowl of oats and my cup of tea or coffee. It is what Thich Nhat Hanh meant when he wrote:
“It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.”
Along lines of expansion of experience, since so many of us are having feelings of anxiety, grief, tension around the uncertainty of our current political climate and people in power who nearly black out our news cycle to revolve around their sun, I have been turning my attention toward other news. News that brings me hope instead of despair.
For example, many other things that don’t rhyme with rump happened recently:
- Ireland’s leaders voted 90 to 53 to divest from fossil fuels entirely. Coal, oil, gas. The most assertive plan from any country on climate change.
- Some people are developing a platform called Voterheads to allow people to more easily monitor and be involved in government actions they care about local to them.
- One company has developed biodegradable plastic bags made from Cassava root. It’s fully dissolving, edible plastic without the oil. Others are selling a plastic with a hybrid of oil polymers and natural polymers to speed up the degrading process. India’s largest city banned all disposable plastics.
- A great thinker’s documentary opened everywhere in theaters.
- A woman in my small community began a program to support refugees and another I know is going to a camp with knitting supplies simply because doing nothing in the face of the largest humanitarian crisis ever is not a choice they can live with.
- And holy cow, just as Google doodle and every news outlet this week mentioned, 7 new planets were discovered that may be habitable or at least contain liquid water. Amazeballs. Yes, it would take 39 light years to get there, but who knows where we’ll be on earth in 39 years?
And there interrupts my expansion, because I just thought of what earth may be like in 39 years instead of relishing the moment of discovery and the fact that there are people working to solve human-created problems everywhere.
In December 2016, I received a spiritual directive or message from the great realm of unconditional love that told me I should host groups on the question of “What is Peace?” So I am. First one this weekend and intend to offer more in 2017 that will be more advertised. As Ghandi actually said instead of the bumper sticker:
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the inner world. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”
It so happens I encountered a great resource this week that focuses on this very topic. The book is inclusive and instructive enough that even confused people like me who do not know if they have an identity in a specific faith but have carried on for years what are considered spiritual practices will find the discussions of great value. Where we focus expands. Wherever you are right this moment, watch your breath and focus on feeling peace for 60 seconds. Maybe we can change the world’s tendencies.