Mindfulness: Moment-to-Moment Awareness

Patricia CadleEnjoy this old and well-known Buddhist fable about mindfulness:

There once was a woman being chased by a tiger, running for her life.  She comes to the edge of a cliff and notices a sturdy vine.  She climbs down the vine to escape her tormentor, only to realize there is another tiger down at the bottom of the mountain waiting for her.  She then sees two mice scurry out and start gnawing on the vine. At this moment, she notices a luscious, wild strawberry growing from an outcrop in the cliff inches away. She looks up. She looks down. She looks at the mice…then, she eats the strawberry.  Succulent juices burst in her mouth, and she feels the seeds crunch between her teeth. She notices a gentle breeze flow across her skin and through her hair, as she gazes out at the expansive vista.

In this Buddhist folklore, the woman conquers her distracted mind and breaks free of her familiar pattern of suffering (the tiger above—past regrets; the tiger below—fear of the future; the mice on the vine—the passing of time).  By focusing on what was right in front of her, giving the present moment (the strawberry) her undivided attention, she found true contentment and fullness of life.

I have found that in the space of mindfulness, something mystical happens: my senses come alive and life becomes brighter, richer.  It turns out, when I pay attention to “what is” in the moment and do not judge it, I am not obsessing about all the bad things that could happen to me in my current situation, nor do I worry about the future and the potential disasters I may face.  Instead, as my senses are awakened through a mindfulness practice, I am gently nudged out of my old, familiar patterns and find myself more open to explore new life possibilities.

Want to experience turning the ordinary into the extraordinary?  Try this mindfulness practice for the next 5 minutes:

Close your eyes.  Sit up straight with your hands resting comfortably on your lap and your feet flat on the floor/ground.  Feel the floor/the earth beneath your feet; become rooted deep into the earth.  Begin to breathe, inhaling and exhaling, slowly and deeply, through your nose.  Feel the air as it passes in and out of your nostrils, down the back of your throat and into lungs and deep into your belly.  Pay attention to the rising and falling of your chest and belly.  With each consecutive breath soften your belly muscles, and allow yourself to go deeper and deeper within. (Cliff notes: Breathe. Relax. Pay attention.)

Just like that, you have started a mindfulness practice!

– Patricia Cadle, MRE, BCC is an oncology Chaplain at UNC Health Care


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