A few years ago, while travelling in South Carolina, I took this picture of a bird frantically trying to escape a barn. The bird, over and over, kept hitting the window in its frantic desire to escape the barn. But, unbeknownst to the anxious bird, the barn doors, one on each end of the barn, were wide open! Had the frantic bird simply stopped a moment to observe its surroundings, it would have quite easily escaped into the freedom of the outside sky. Yet, the bird was so focused on the task in front of it that it failed to see any options to reach the goal.
A couple years ago, at my house, I took this picture of a butterfly, who, in similar manner to the bird I described above, was frantically flying against the screen
trying to escape the enclosure. Also, similarly to the story above, immediately behind the butterfly was the open door. Yet he too did not pause to observe the surroundings for an option other than what seemed to be the only option, banging against the screen (as a side note, I did help the butterfly escape).
I can empathize with the bird and the butterfly for I too have found myself banging my head against a fictitious window, and sometimes a screen, in my attempt to change my life’s course or to escape some feeling within me which I was not willing to face. Over many years of my life, and, dare I say, many head bruises, I began to learn that it is quite beneficial to take a moment to simply be. A moment to stop moving, to stop thinking, to stop acting; a moment, rather, to just exist.
This act of choosing to “stop” is commonly called meditation or mindfulness. I am aware of the differences between the two practices, but for the moment (no pun intended) I wish to focus on mindfulness since that is a word I often use in my writings and on my social media. One of the pioneers in the mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as
“a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
Personally, the two key phrases in the definition on which I feel are important to focus are “on purpose” and
“nonjudgmentally”. To find our inner-peace and stop banging our heads on the window, we need to consciously make the choice to spend 10-20 minutes a day focusing our attention on what is happening around us and in us. Our focus is not to judge what is happening in or around me, but just to notice it. As we become aware of our surroundings and our inner self, we will slowly become aware of various options present to us.
In many ways we, I, am no different from the bird and the butterfly in that we tend to allow our emotions and sense of crisis take control of our focus. Yet, in our focused awareness, we are able to see solutions; to see hope.
… continue the conversation …