Mathew 7:3 says: And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and do not notice the log that is in your own eye? It’s all well and good to be out there campaigning for peace, but we need to start a bit closer to home to really make an impact. This was a mistake I made for many years. I wasted lots of time dwelling in the past--replaying old tapes of bad situations and always lamenting what I should have done which usually culminated in some rather cruel self talk about what a physically repulsive dumbass I was. So yeah. That doesn’t really help. And when I wasn’t dwelling in the past having a jolly good self bashing I was living in the future and crossing bridges and getting stressed over situations that might never come to pass, but I had to angst over them as if they really were about to come true. This made life exceedingly hard when a real serious situation came my way (e.g. Spiderman getting cancer) but it taught me some great lessons. Mathew 6:34 says: Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Here is where practicing mindfulness can help.
What does this mean? Thich Nhat Hanh Buddhist monk and author of books such as Living Buddha, Living Christ and Peace in Every Step says this:
Practice mindfulness in each moment--to know what is going on within and around us. When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, we are always understanding, full of acceptance, love and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.
Trying hard to be present in every moment as we do things can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. When walking home today from exercise class the temperature had dropped and the air was cold and heavy with the feeling it might rain any minute. The ground was sticky with molasses like mud everywhere I trod. I reached into my pockets for my gloves, but then I remembered they were in my backpack. I was walking and grumbling and thinking ahead making a list in my head of all the things I needed to do when I got home when I realized I was miserable and needed to be mindful. I stopped. I took a deep breath and I begin to talk myself though it, being aware of all that was around me. It went something like this:
I am walking home, tall and strong from pilates. I am tired, but it is a good tired from having worked hard to make my body strong and flexible.
The ground is muddy, but through the earth I can see the scallion shoots of daffodils poking their green tips up.
The air is cool but my scarf and coat and hat keep me warm. There are many who have no coat or scarf to keep warm. Let me remember then in my prayers and do what I can to help them.
I can hear an orchestra of birdsong from over the hedge by the churchyard. I wonder how many different types of birds there are?
I can see a beautiful, unusual bird with distinct black and white markings. I don’t know what kind it is--I’ve never seen one before. It is so small and frail I am sending it love and warmth and food over the cold January weather.
Before I knew it I was at my door, feeling relaxed and prayerful and happy and realized if I had stayed grumping and stumping and making lists I would never have heard the birdsong or seen the wee black and white bird or noticed the daffodils.
I find this is also good when cooking. Hare Krishna food tastes so good because they believe they are preparing it for
Krishna and so they cook with hearts of love because the food is for God. They put some on a plate and offer it to God first, then serve the people the food that has been lovingly blessed and received by God. When you cook, food tastes better if you prepare it mindfully and with love. I like to focus on who I making it for and picture their bodies being nourished by my vegan food knowing that no animal had to suffer for us to eat. I like to think about the food as I prepare it. You might see just a carrot, but I can see the whole universe. The sun and the soil and the rain and love and energy from the farmer who grew it. When I chop vegetables I like to say things like. “This is a carrot. It grows underground.” or “These are peas, they grow in a pod on a vine.” It just helps you connect with the food and where it comes from and where it is going.
It is easier, I think, to be mindful about your food if you are vegan. If you had to say, “This is milk that comes from a cow that was forcibly inseminated and then gave birth to a calf that was stolen away and she then was milked until her udders were distended and infected with pus as she cried and mooed for her child” or “This is chicken that comes from…a chicken who lived 45 days in an airless shed that had a tiny door at one end so they could call it free range but it never got out. It grew so quickly its legs could not support it and in the end it was dunked still alive in a vat of boiling water to strip the feathers off where it shat itself and then was killed with no stunning so it could end up on my plate.” Somehow I think if I had to trace back those ingredients they would lose their lustre and I would lose my appetite (and possibly my lunch). Thankfully being vegan makes you mindful all the time as you are aware of the suffering of animals and you do not choose to participate in the cycle of suffering. There are so many things in the world to eat that do not cause pain and suffering to our fellow creatures.
Eating mindfully is also worth a try. Instead of golloping your food as you zone out in front of the telly really pay attention to what you eat and the tastes and textures. It will slow you down and help you to eat less. Still working on this one. But with a deep breath, trying to be mindful every day, anything can happen.