May 28, 2013


“Taking care”, “mindfulness”, and “being angry, for two or three heartbeats”

djinoz wrote:

I’d be interested in a post that expands the ‘mindfulness’ into ‘taking care’ – it seems the latter requires the same attention but because it has an emotional sound to it, then its less hip. Your post indicates a lot of care and so seems richer than just mindfulness.

What an interesting idea this is (there is little doubt that mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment as I mentioned in a previous post); and the first question I wanted to ask myself was ‘is there any difference between mindfulness as we understand it from the Theravadan Buddhist perspective and taking care?’

In any discussion on something as ineffable as mindfulness we must keep in mind the following dictum: words are only “the fingers pointing to the Moon” as the Zen saying has it: mindfulness cannot be experienced by writing about it or talking about it and, further, recall the famous Korzybski saying, “The map is not the territory”. On this latter point I will write another post another time, wherein the core idea that I want to introduce in connection with this saying is ‘motivated perspective’. More on that later, but a hint now is that any mapmaker has a purpose in mind and this is the reason why drainage maps will look different to cadastral maps even though they may address the same spatial territory. In other words, are there are no neutral maps and that applies to perspectives as well.

Before digging into this more deeply, it seems to me that, depending on the way ‘taking care’ is experienced, these fingers could be pointing to the same Moon. If one is aware that one is taking care rather than simply being absorbed in the process of taking care of self then from my experience this is identical with mindfulness. To put it more formally, mindfulness is a second order phenomenon: awareness comes first and then the experience that one is aware of being aware is where mindfulness can be found. If one is taking care and one is aware that one is taking care, I cannot see any significant difference in these activities. And recall the quote that I linked you to the other day: the critical part of the quote is the the assertion that “mindfulness is an activity, not a thought form.

One of the obscurations of my own mind is that I will experience immense frustration in my physical body when any particular technology fails to deliver what its designer intended. It is fascinating to watch this process arrive in the body (though not as interesting nor amusing for those around me), and I am reminded of the conversation I had with a wonderful teacher more than 10 years ago who spoke about earlier time the Rishis wrote about, when “the Great Beings walked the Earth.” The teacher and I had been drinking an extremely expensive cognac (‘Hine‘) for some time at this point. I mused aloud: “I am really looking forward to the time when I’m not angry all the time” I said.

“Why?”, he said. “Well, you know, getting angry feels horrible in the body and it’s very upsetting for me and destructive for the people around me”, I replied. “Yes,” he said, “I know all that, but you want to be able to feel all the emotions that come up, and as strongly as possible, to be fully human. This is part of an authentic life. Let me tell you about the time when the Great Beings walked the earth, who were angry for the space of two or three heartbeats.”

“When some people get angry, they stay angry for hours, or weeks, or their whole lives” he said. This comment struck me with the force of a revelation. Immediately I decided to be one of those who become aware of anger arising in the body, who have the presence of mind (the mindfulness we are considering) to pivot and choose to move to a new state within two or three heartbeats. I am still waiting for that day, but can honestly report that anger it is upon me less frequently, and less intensely, and definitely more briefly these days. Of course, to really test the veracity of this assertion, you would have to speak to the people closest to me.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}