Mindfulness of what is before us, around us, and within us is a great gift and skill to help us through stressful times. But mindfulness is not enough.
Let’s use the beautiful Chihuly blown glass exhibit pictured above as an example. I can be mindful by being aware of the size, shape, beauty, creativity, design and placement of those glass balls. I can bring an attitude of curiosity to the whole scene, wonder what it means, and look for the message of glass balls in and around a canoe. I can be mindful of my own emotional reactions to the scene, and I can let this fill me with awe and wonder.
But mindfulness is not enough for me. Awareness is not enough. Knowing what is happening within and without is not enough. What I really seek these days comes from another dimension. What I seek is to be one with the Source of the creativity that was moving in Dale Chihuly when he made this exhibit.
What I seek these days is the heart of mindfulness, the Source of mindfulness, the presence of the Great Love who moves within me and all that lives. I want more than being aware. I want oneness. I want to be sourced in the Source.
I am writing from a 5-day silent retreat at Rosaryville in South Louisiana. I am participating in days full of two contemplative practices: centering prayer and lectio divina. And today’s scripture for contemplation includes these words from God to us: “Do not fear, for I am with you.”
I am writing from a place of distress, in the midst of a major life transition, after giving up the church I served for nine years and then the apartment where we lived for four years. And when rats showed up where we were house sitting in New Orleans, we had to give up a place to stay too. As you already know, our sense of safety and security are two of the fundamental needs for us humans. So losing that is a big rug pulled out from under us.
This is why I need more than mindfulness. Yes, I need to be very aware of the flood of emotions in these days. I want to watch them and not become reactive to them. I want to remain open to wise decisions about what comes next. I do not want to be pulled under by the undertow of these events. Neither do I want to avoid, or numb, or escape the reality of the events or the feelings that come with them.
At the heart of mindfulness is the decision to hold all of this in loving awareness, to be in oneness with the Great Love who says, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” Letting the divine draw me into union of the spiritual dimension and my human dimension is my need. Letting my being fall into the hands of a loving God who says, “I am with you,” is my task. Bringing my mind down into the heart where God and I are one is my healing.
Sharing our state of vulnerability with the humans around me is a practical expression of my dependence on God. With them I seek union with God. And through them I hope for God to show God’s presence in tangible ways. I expect that. I hope for that. I trust that.
What I need is presence. That is why I say that today mindfulness is not enough. Presence brings healing, hope, compassion, and community. That is why I am in exactly the right place for this time in our lives: spending these days in contemplative community, coming down into the center of being in the company of other seekers, and coming into the Presence.
On Saturday, August 20, I will gather interested friends to spend a day together exploring “The Heart of Mindfulness” through sharing eight contemplative practices together. I can’t pretend to offer these days just to help others. For gathering contemplative community is what saves me. Because there I find the presence of God again and again.
That is where I am today, and that is where I will be in three weeks. If you want to join us, find the details on the website for the School for Contemplative Living at http://www.thescl.net. And if you want to get an idea of what we gather to seek, watch the vimeo that is linked to the homepage called “Monks in the World.” I would love to see you in a few weeks.