This morning after yoga, I met up with a friend to collect some plants she wanted to discard. There was a communicating error about where I was. I texted that I was at the Muslim restaurant. She chided me when she met me. ‘It’s Indian restaurant.’ Isn’t all Indian restaurant Muslim too? I asked. ‘Just admit you’re wrong when you’re wrong.’ Oh my, someone got up from the wrong side of the bed this morning. In the lift going up, I remarked about her gray hair. She snapped, ‘You’re so critical. Can you be more mindful of how you speak.’ I decided I better zip my mouth henceforth.
I usually hate it when people tell me I should be more mindful as if working in a mindfulness centre before dictates that I must thus behave so. Another friend once commented the same thing about me, that I am not mindful. But then, since when have I gone around touting that I am a mindful person? In fact, I often admit I could be more mindful, as I am absent-minded and usually floating inside my fictional character’s head.
If you think I am upset while writing this post, I’m actually not. The purpose of this post is to share a poem I read just before I met my friend this morning, which resonated so much with the mindfulness talk I attended last night by Mattieu Ricard and Tan Chade Meng, two mindfulness gurus. Reading the poem mitigated my reaction, which could have lead to a hostile meeting and a broken friendship.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
During the talk last night on Altruism and Change, we were reminded to be aware of our body reaction once a negative emotion arises, and to come back to the breath, perhaps have an intelligent dialogue with your feeling and let them undo themselves as they arrive. For the moment you see a river, you are no longer drowning. Once you see the emotion, your cognitive would know how to clear the mind.
Also, Tan Chade Meng lead us to do a 10 sec loving-kindness meditation, to wish two strangers you meet a happy life as you see them. Do this every hour daily and you’ll feel happier at the end of the day, he promised. So I am trying to do this but I keep forgetting. Yet, once I did this, as when I wished the construction worker waiting to cross a traffic light while driving, and the Malay Auntie struggling to cross the road with her market trolley, I felt a slight lifting of spirit (although it could also be psychological, a placebo effect).
So as I welcome these sensations into my guest house – good or bad, I remind myself that this alone make me more mindful, which is good enough.