I was driving home listening to a podcast when the presenter said 2019 was the year she was committing to being more mindful in her life. I hear this word a lot in church circles and I’m never entirely sure what it means so I’ve decided to drag you on this journey of pondering with me.
The dictionary definition is given as:
1. ‘conscious or aware of something’
2. ‘focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, especially as part of a therapeutic or meditative technique’
3. i’nclined or willing to do something’
So put simply, it’s another way of saying be aware, rather like a road sign eg. be aware of roadworks ahead, slow down. But what does it mean to be aware? Is it passive or active? Do I actually need to do something if I am aware? Does my awareness motivate me to act?
If I am mindful, or aware that someone is going through some tough times in life, if that person suddenly snaps at me, I know why it might have happened and so react in a way that is informed by my mindfulness. However, the coffee shop using soy rather than milk in your chai latte really doesn’t count so it isn’t a free pass for bad behaviour!
But this example means I need knowledge in order to act in a mindful way, with awareness. I wonder if ‘mindful’ can be deeper than that. Forgive me but I live in Mount Eliza so I’m going to use the beach to help my pondering.
We can live in a way that is like surfing on the top of the water – you get to the shore fast but you stay on the surface (or that’s the idea!) There’s nothing wrong with this. We can paddle near the shallows and get our feet wet or we can dive in and swim, even get our heads under the water. At our local beach, if you look under the water, you can see all sorts of fish, shells, crabs and even puffer fish if you go slightly further out. There’s all sorts of creatures living there, burrowing into the sand or swimming around. If you stayed on the surface or in the shallows, you might be aware of sea life living away in the depths but it doesn’t mean you get to experience it. Is that still mindfulness?
A few years ago we had a family holiday to Port Douglas to celebrate being married 25 years. We sailed out to the Great Barrier Reef as we were aware, thanks to David Attenborough et al, that there were amazing fish and sea creatures we would never see at Mt Eliza. We were totally mindful of the dangers to the Reef and how climate change is destroying sections. However, it was only when I got my courage up, (“Just look down mum!”) that I found myself immersed in the most incredible otherworld I have ever experienced. SO much colour, so much diversity, so much I didn’t understand. I almost wept with the enormity of creation and my tiny little person in comparison. And sharks swimming way, way, way down the bottom too – I couldn’t believe the depths and how far I could see. Simply the most amazing experience ever.
In Jesus, I see an example of someone embodying the justice of God, the way creation should co-exist, was meant to co-exist. As a Jesus follower, mindful of his example, I take inspiration from this and try so hard to live it. However, it involves me sometimes surfing, sometimes paddling and sometimes putting on the snorkel and diving in. I am passionate about specific justice issues (eg Hawthorn AFL stopping the income stream from pokies), so I dive in with my snorkel and make a nuisance of myself to the club hierarchy. I am equally passionate about how we treat those seeking refuge, so I make a lot of noise and I hassle politicians constantly. But there are other justice issues I cannot give this energy to because I only have so much energy so I might support others who are diving in to ensure they have what they need – it doesn’t take as much from me but it’s still happening.
This is where I see a real strength in MUC.
Whether you are committed to the English classes, the church Social justice action group, voluntary community groups, cooking dinner for the Fresh Youth Theatre, Grandstand for the environment, whatever it is, this is where you dive in wearing your snorkel. You give a lot, but you get a lot back too. When you support someone else by encouragement, eg donating good quality items to Doncare op shop or buying the Big Issue, this is where you are surfing.
It makes a difference to someone, but your effort is not so great. And where you sit down and spend time listening to someone who is involved in an issue, and you are open to being educated and informed on an issue, eg ‘Building Bridges Through Story’ even in October, this is where you are paddling, unless you’re organising it and then you’re deep sea diving.
All of these are about mindfulness as we are aware and motivated to help. How we help depends on how much time, energy and resources we have but we can all do something even if it’s surfing back to shore to get supplies for those snorkelling!
So I’m wondering if being mindful is about being in a permanent state of awareness so that I am open to being better informed, open to using my resources more effectively, open to changing my opinions. And Grace and peace,