Moderator’s column: Living with mindfulness

As I gather my thoughts for this edition of Revive, on Intentional Living, I am reminded of a DVD based course Viv and I bought some time ago. The course was entitled Practicing  Mindfulness. The lecturer, Professor Mark Muesse, asserts that most of us live in a state of mindlessness most of the time. Mindlessness being “A mental state in which the mind  generates a constant swirl of remarks and judgements that create a barrier or words and images that separate people from their lives.”

Muesse believes this condition makes it difficult to be attentive to each experience of life — to be mindful. Mindfulness then, is moment-bymoment awareness of life; it is the process  of attentively observing your experience as it unfolds. Mindfulness allows us to become keen observers of ourselves and gradually to transform the way we operate. With  practise, mindfulness can make us more attentive to our experience and less captive to the whims of the world around us. In short, it allows us the freedom to live intentional lives,  thoughtful lives, lives that are not blown around by the vagaries of fashion or fad, or by others’ mindlessness.

Muesse uses the image of a cowboy at a rodeo, hanging on with one hand to a huge angry bull determined to throw him off. I think it’s a good image for an unintentional life, a life  with no central reality, no “something more” (Marcus Borg), no “cosmic egg”(Richard Rohr) to bring meaning, shape and ground. The very idea of intentional living brings to mind  for me a poem from a book bought many years ago, when I was a young man of about eighteen. The book was entitled “Notes to the Hurrying Man” and was by Brian Patten.

The title poem goes:

All day I sit here doing nothing
but watching how at daybreak
birds fly out and return no fatter
when it’s over. Yet hurrying about
this room you would have me do
something similar;
would have me make myself a place
in the sad traffic you call a world.
Don’t hurry me into it; offer
no excuses, no apologies.
Until their brains snap open
I have not love of those who rush
about its mad business.
You will not listen.
‘Work at life!’ you scream,
And working I see you rushing
so fast most times you ignore
two quarters of your half a world.
If all slow things are useless
and take no active part in or justify
your ignorance
that’s fine; but why bother
screaming after me?
Afraid perhaps to come to where
I’ve stopped in case you find
Into some slow and glowing
countryside yourself escaping.
Screams measure and keep up the
distance between us;
Be quieter —
I really do need to escape;
take the route you might take
if ever this hurrying is over.

What comes to your mind when you read the title Intentional Living? I hope this edition of Revive brings something for you.

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