On Mindfulness by Jo Gustafson

Recently Barb Vail shared a little about mind- fulness during her reflection at the table. It re- minded me of my own spiritual practice on the topic, long since abandoned. I don’t remember why I ever gave it up because I really loved it. Maybe it was the whole intentionality of the thing and priorities shifting over time. What- ever, it was a good reminder I can begin again.

I believe my introduction to mindfulness came from several books I read by Thich Nhat Hanh: Living Buddha Living Christ and Mindfulness, among others. He suggested that one could begin to practice by being intentional with an everyday chore like washing dishes by hand. (Yes, some of us still do this the old- fashioned way!) It’s amazing how still life becomes when you try this. Worries and rush fall away and peace begins to enfold you. Who wouldn’t want that? Easier said than done. It takes discipline to keep your attention focused on one thing like that. Try it on something easy like brushing your teeth and see if your mind wanders before you’re done.

There was a walking meditation that I decided to try. For this particular one, you were to walk in the same place once a week. At the time I had an annual pass to the Japanese Gardens and so decided to try it out there. You were to walk to a spot, stop, and observe all that you can within the limits of turning your head from left shoulder to right. After you have taken it all in, and it’s surprising how much you really can take in, you walk to a next spot and do the same. The following weeks you would stop at the same places and try to observe any changes from the week before.

Well, I gave it a try and believe me, it is really, really slow going. I was totally engaged in observation yet oblivious to the rest of what was around me. I got about half way around when I realized I’d attracted a small crowd. People were asking, “What’s she looking at?” “I don’t know, I don’t see anything.” And finally, “Hey lady, what are you looking at?” So much for peace.

It’s left me wondering though. What if we were to practice mindfulness for worship? That would mean intentionally keeping our minds focused and engaged throughout the service— no texting, no thoughts of what needs to get done after church, etc. I wonder if newcomers would then follow us to coffee time and ask us what we see.