When my Dad was experiencing breathlessness and lack of appetite due to metastasis lung cancer, one day my children called him to asked him how was his day. It was painful for them to see their Grandfather struggling to breathe and have no appetite.
“It’s a beautiful day”, he remarked, much to their pleasant surprise. “It’s a cool monsoon day, the air is crisp and the plants and trees have regained their freshness after a light morning shower”.
For a person who was undergoing a considerable amount of discomfort, my Dad’s response did not however surprise me. Ever since, I can remember, he has been a practitioner of “Mindfulness” in his life.
The term “Mindfulness” can be defined as a state of complete awareness and attention without allowing our thoughts to be affected by our past or our concerns for the future.
The significance of this state of mind is that it a maintenance of awareness that comes from without being contemplative or focused on matters that could be physically or emotionally undesirable. We also become aware of our surroundings, sensations and thoughts through a kinder approach – without considering right, wrong or involving any negative thinking.
As the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society and the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Jon Kabat-Zinn rose to prominence through his studies on mindfulness.
His ground breaking work elevated the comprehension of the concept of mindfulness to a level that it could promote progress and success in our life. It enabled society to understand that mindfulness meditation as a lifestyle change can successfully lead to the desired changes in an individual’s well-being and health. Practicing mindfulness is also a positive technique to program our thoughts into a state of gratitude for our life in its completeness rather than focusing a specific area of it.
Practicing Mindfulness – Powerful Tool as a Stress and Discomfort Coping Mechanism.
In matters that involved direct interaction with people, mindfulness can help us focus on the matter at hand rather than get on to a hypercritical mode.
Talking of which I remember an incident narrated to me by my friend, Manu.
A couple of years ago, during a parent teacher meeting, my friend, Manu had what could have been a rather unpleasant experience with a teacher who had who taught her daughter in the final year of high school.
Due to a misunderstanding that had risen in class, the teacher was very focused on communicating to her daughter that he was dismayed with her, her work and her behavior. Little did her daughter realize that her sincere attempts in conveying the error in a sum the teacher had written on the writing board would have rather unpleasant consequences throughout that academic year.
During the parent teacher conference, Manu could sense the unresolved issue the teacher had with daughter and naturally her as the Mother.
When the meeting concluded, the teacher coldly glanced at Manu and her daughter and said, “She is good but not the best”. Manu merely acknowledged his observation with a polite nod. Doubting whether she may have heard him, he re-emphasized the statement yet again to which Manu replied with a smile that she heard him.
During the course of conversation, she realized that she had several options to handle the meeting.
One, was by conveying to him that his persistence in ridiculing her daughter for the apparent slight he believed she had made against him is truly cringe worthy.
Secondly, she could attempt communicating to him that after the sincere regret conveyed by her daughter in the incident, he had no valid reason for his continued hostility.
Thirdly, by respecting her daughter’s decision that Manu doesn’t involve herself and with the understanding that her daughter can maturely handle the situation, she ignores the teacher’s vitriolic attitude.
Manu chose the third option. By choosing to follow a path of peace and goodwill, she chose to ignore his bait to begin a discussion that will be of no benefit to neither him, nor Manu and more importantly her daughter.
By practicing Mindfulness we not only become more acutely aware of the moment but also consider the value of social interaction before we respond. It is crucial to consider any situation worth compromising our peace of mind for.
Individuals like my Father may amaze us sometimes by cherishing so dearly every moment of their life as though there is no sorrow or tomorrow. But as we know, it takes tremendous strength to tune our mind to see the positive and celebrate every instant even in situations of physical and psychological stress.
Like the petals of a flower that unfolds, each day gives us countless moments to enjoy our time with gratitude and grace. It is up to us to truly “live” through each breath we take, before it becomes our last.