When you are stressed out with life’s endless chaos — whether it be due to putting on a “happy face” for grumpy customers at your retail job, staying up until 2 a.m. grading papers for class, or having to write a ten-page research paper — it seems that turning to nature as a safe haven for stress relief is common, and can often save you from growing too many unwanted grey hairs on your head.
Mindfulness and meditation expert, John Kabat-Zinn, author of the book Wherever You Go There You Are (the book I based my previous posts on), suggests that if you cannot retreat to nature, then to imagine and embody a mountain. The reason to envision mountains above other nature panoramas, is because mountains possess organic strength formed by elemental rock. Mountains are rock-hard and rock-solid, and therefore their firmness and robust being should be something we adopt and encompass within ourselves. Mountains are unchanging even through violent thunderstorms, harsh winds, and blizzard conditions; despite these situations, the mountain sits in stillness unfazed.
Over winter break, so close to the holidays, the Lewis University community lost one of its fellow students, Steven Seum, who had just graduated after completing the fall semester. Steve was a fellow peer, as we shared numerous English classes together, which grew our friendship as he became a dear friend of mine. I want to dedicate this blog post to Steve and all that he has taught me, in such a short amount of time, about being someone who is patient, kind, and loving.
John Kabat-Zinn, in his mindfulness meditation book, Wherever You Go There You Are, (which I also wrote about in my previous piece) attributes a section to this idea of “loving kindness meditation.” Kabat-Zinn suggests that we resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are all interconnected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleolus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others (Kabat-Zinn 162).
Understanding and practicing mindfulness can be tricky, but luckily there are many experts who offer their guidance and advice on how to be successful at being mindful. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is one of these experts, but he also plays the role as a researcher, scientist, writer, and meditation teacher. Kabat-Zinn is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he founded its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic in 1979, as well as the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in 1995.
Kabat-Zinn is the author of two best-selling books, one of these being, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. In his book, Kabat-Zinn guides the reader on a simple path for cultivating mindfulness. The book is broken up into smaller fragments, with brief synopses followed by a “Try” section. These “try” sections give how-to instructions on practicing mindfulness in a non-complex way.
Many of these try sections are worth examining and sharing in order for others to attain a more positive life. In the first part of the book, Kabat-Zinn suggests that, “If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing. If we don’t really know where we are standing—a knowing that comes directly from the cultivation mindfulness—we may only go in circles, for all our efforts and expectations,” (pgs. 15-16).
Lewis University’s Arts & Ideas program is hosting what is referred to as the “Happiness Series” throughout the course of the 2017 fall semester. The series includes numerous presentations from faculty and staff that offer helpful tips in regards to mindfulness, writing and the arts, and happiness.
I attended the “Cultivating Happiness through Mindfulness and Writing I” presentation that was held late last month. This presentation highlighted the benefits of practicing mindfulness and its intersectionality with writing, as well as how the conjunction of both can cultivate and restore happiness into one’s everyday life.