I was in prison
unjustly jailed (I thought)
I asked for my freedom
The jailer refused
What was my crime I asked
Everything he said
Confused and angry
I wrote a letter to you
I received a lamp
a drawing made of lines and circles
a book with empty pages –some pencils-
a shawl and a cup for rain
these and the little food I was given
through the slot in the steel door
I read into the dark
reflected on the drawing
I wrote our shapes like letters
in the morning in your blank book
I prayed and kept warm by the lamp
and in the shawl then I fasted
drinking only from the small cup
filled with water that seeped into my cell
By day I became calm and happy
By night I drew and read more
Soon I saw between your lines
an open space and a silence
I saw the lines
become a shape like a map
Your map took me
to the crack in the floor
I scratched and dug there
By day I prayed and read
By night I learned how to dig
my way forward
slowly displacing the dirt
out the small barred window
When I came at last into
the sudden air the wind
the breath beyond the lines
the breathing behind the map
I knew the story lived in my hands
I stood up
What would I do now
with a soul
It is said that there was a time and a place where women were not considered person.
It is said that a group of them rolled up their sleeves and prepared for the debate and the struggle.
And it is said that something was achieved.
The Famous Five (Canada)
Almost 3 years later I am back in Ottawa.
Yesterday I went through parliament again.
Yesterday I saw them again.
Yesterday they reminded me that they did their part.
Yesterday I felt proud again of their struggle.
Yesterday I conveyed my admiration.
But they told me that yesterday does not change the future, they told me that the battle must continue here and now.
That the day we stop to remember is because this is what we have achieved it.
For all those women who made us a person!
Ps. To my little daughter Elena, so that your generation only will have to remember.
“AROUND US, LIFE bursts forth with miracles –a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there”
“Your true home, the everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh” Thich Nhat Hanh (2011)
Is mindfulness the same as meditation? Is mindfulness a type of meditation? What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Questions like these are always present in my programs for beginners. So I thought it would be interesting to write a post explaining what mindfulness and meditation are, and what the relation between these two is.
Mindfulness is the capacity, quality or ability to be fully present in the moment. It brings with it an attitude of curiosity, openness, acceptance and kindness. Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness is the awareness that appears when we pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. Another definition that I like is the one given by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist and author, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Mindfulness shows us what is happening in our bodies, our emotions, our minds, and in the world. Through mindfulness, we avoid harming ourselves and others”.
You can find more definitions out there. But I like to say that the best way to understand mindfulness is to experience it. As the Clinical Psychologist Christopher Germer says, “A moment of mindfulness is a kind of awareness that arrives before words, as the shine of the stars arrives before that we can name them”.
To be mindful has benefits. Scientific research over the last years has offered evidence about the beneficial effects of mindfulness. For example, the research of Professor Ellen Langer and Professor Richard Davidson suggests that mindfulness is strongly related to happiness. There is also evidence suggesting that being mindful can help us
The next question is, can I improve my mindfulness capacity? The answer is yes. Here is where the link between mindfulness and meditation appears. Mindfulness can be cultivated through different practices: one of these is meditation.
Briefly, we can say that meditation refers to an ancient group of practices. It comes in many forms and techniques. Also different contexts link to different meanings. Consequently, we don’t find a unique and consensual definition. Broadly, we can say that meditation practices help us to train our mind, soul and heart to raise our consciousness or, in a religious context, to achieve enlightenment. Specifically, in relation with mindfulness and from a western psychology perspective, Professors Roger Walsh and Shauna Shapiro define meditation in an article published in 2006 as, “A family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration”. I would like to add that meditation also includes attitude training that allows us to enhance our universal capacity for love toward ourselves and others.
For example, Mindfulness Based Interventions use meditation as their primary training technique. So the program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction asks its participants to practice a minimum of 45 minutes meditation each day during the program to achieve optimal results.
Mindfulness is a form of awareness, a quality that allow us to achieve wellness, concentration, compassion, equanimity, peace. Through mindfulness we can better understand our mind, heart, and our connection with what surrounds us. We can become more emphatic, kind and conscious. Everyone has a different level of mindfulness. This can be improved through different ways, and one of these is meditation. Meditation includes a broad number of practices and techniques. There is no one definition of it, but from a western psychology perspective, we can say that meditation involves a series of practices whose aims are self-regulation of attention and the attitude to achieve greater states of consciousness and compassion.
I’ll finish this post by sharing a fun animated video that speaks about mindfulness and meditation:
“Mindfulness is the miracle that allows us to be the real owners of our life, to become fully ourselves” Thich Nhat Hahn.
I have just finished re-reading the thoughtful book, “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, by Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen Master, author and peace activist. It is a good introductory book to the meaning of Mindfulness experience from a Zen context.
Defining and understanding Mindfulness is not easy, and you will find a great number of perspectives, experiences, and definitions. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh brings a simile that I find very useful:
“Imagine a magician who cuts his body in pieces and sends each of them to different places: legs to the east, head to the south, arms to the north… Then, using his magic power, with only one movement, he is able to bring together his entire body again, recovering its wholeness. This powerful image is similar to what happen with Mindfulness, the miracle to bring together our scattered mind, recovering the sense of plenitude in each moment of our life”.
And you may be thinking: “Great, but, how can I achieve this magic power of Mindfulness? How to become a Mindfulness Magician? It will be great to have the capacity of bringing together my dispersed mind, to achieve clarity, kindness, awareness, and vividness in each moment of my life, but, how?”
One answer was given more than 2.500 years ago, and now science evidence agrees with it: Meditative Practices. They help us to develop Mindfulness, concentration and compassion.