Guest post from Toni Bernhard, author of How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers
From Euripides to Bill Cosby: 30 Quotations on Mindfulness
2,500 years of unexpected voices on mindfulness.
I recently discovered that for 2,500 years, philosophers, writers, humorists, scientists, and people of wisdom all over the world have been writing about mindfulness—just not using the word! Cultivating mindfulness holds the promise for us to live in peace and contentment because when we’re fully engaged in the present moment, we’re not lost in regrets about—or caught up in nostalgia for—the past and we’re not fretting or anxious about the future.
These quotations on mindfulness come from unexpected voices—meaning that they’re not from Buddhist teachers or from those who are part of the modern-day mindfulness movement. I offer them to inspire you to practice living in the present moment. In my experience, each moment that we’re able to be fully present for our life as it is, as opposed to how we want it to be, is a moment of peace—even if it’s a moment of pain or sorrow.
Not Dwelling on the Past
Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. —Cherokee Indian Proverb
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes. —American poet, Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), from “Prairie,” Complete Poems
When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. — British scientist and inventor, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
It’s but little good you’ll do a-watering the last year’s crops. —British novelist, George Eliot, aka Mary Anne Evans (1819-1880), from Adam Bede
In the carriages of the past you can’t go anywhere. —Russian and Soviet author, Maxim Gorky (1868-1936)
Living the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way. —American novelist and playwright, Edna Ferber (1885-1968)
Waste not fresh tears over old griefs. —Tragedian of ancient Greek, Euripides (circa 480-406 BCE), from Alexander
We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. If you’re hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time. —American humorist, Art Buchwald (1925-2007)
Old times never come back and I suppose it’s just as well. What comes back is a new morning every day in the year, and that’s better. —American literary critic and poet, George E. Woodberry (1855-1930)
Not Anticipating the Future
If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. —Senegalese Proverb
I never think of the future. It comes soon enough. —German and American physicist and pacifist, Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. —American President, Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road. —Danish author, Isak Dinesen, aka Karen Blixen (1885-1962)
It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis. —American science fiction writer, Margaret Wander Bonnano (b. 1950)
Slight not what’s near through aiming at what’s far. —Euripides
I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.—British novelist, poet, and playwright, D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Living in the Present
With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. —American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Nothing ever gets anywhere. The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere. The moment is the only thing that counts. —French novelist, poet, and playwright, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) from Professional Secrets
Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee. —French essayist, Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Seize from every moment its unique novelty, and do not prepare your joys. —French author, André Gide (1869-1951) from Nourritures Terrestres
Nothing is worth more than this day. —German writer and poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus. —Alexander Graham Bell
The living moment is everything. —D.H. Lawrence
Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. —American author, cartoonist, and humorist, James Thurber (1894-1961)
Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do. —French essayist, Jean de la Bruyere (1645-1696)
The past is a ghost, the future a dream. All we ever have is now. —American actor and humorist, Bill Cosby (b. 1937)
Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going. —American writer and playwright, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
Why not just live in the moment, especially if it has a good beat? —American actress and director, Goldie Hawn (b. 1945)
And my personal favorite:
Forever is composed of nows. —American poet, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
And there you have it: 30 quotations from 2,500 years ago to…the present moment!
Toni Bernhard received a J.D. from the University of California, Davis where she taught law for 22 years until forced to retire due to the illness she writes about in How to Be Sick. From 1992-1998, she served as the law school’s Dean of Students. At the time she became ill, she had a longstanding Buddhist practice and co-led a weekly meditation group with her husband Tony. They live in Davis, CA with their hound dog, Rusty. Toni can be found online at www.howtobesick.com.
Let’s join together in a celebration of the power of mindfulness, and continue the spirit of Mindfulness Day even after the sun sets on this day.
For those near the Westerly, Rhode Island area, celebrating this year’s Mindfulness Day with a walking meditation in Wilcox Park! The walk will focus on Environmental Referencing and Awareness techniques from Personal Circle, breathing, footwork, and will be lead by Keith Cowley. 1 hour, or til sundown.
*FREE, please pre-register if possible, drop ins welcome. Meet at the gazebo. 18 and over.
Wisdom Publications is pleased to announce that selected eBooks on mindfulness will be discounted to 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iTunes stores in celebration of Mindfulness Day (September 12). The following books will be available at this discount from September 9 through September 15:
Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness by Bhante Gunaratana
Journey to Mindfulness by Bhante Gunaratana
The Meditator’s Atlas by Matthew Flickstein
Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness by Deborah Schoeberlein with Suki Sheth
Mindful Therapy by Thomas Bien
The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore
Mindfulness Yoga by Frank Jude Boccio
Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants by Arnie Kozak
Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? by Ajahn Brahm
The Mind Institute in Poland will be holding a Mindfulness Day event this year. Be sure to check back here or visit their website for updates.
Mindfulness Day 2012 is fast-approaching! We’ve added a new poster for this year’s Mindfulness Day, and we also have a new facebook page: facebook.com/dayofmindfulness. If you haven’t “liked” the new page yet, please do. The old facebook page will be taken down on July 11th.
We can’t wait to hear your plans for this year, so please let us know of any events happening on September 12th.
6 Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness Outside of Meditation
Mindfulness can be practiced inside or outside of meditation
by Toni Bernhard, J.D.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying careful attention to what is happening in the present moment, whether it be a sight, a sound, a taste, a smell, a sensation in the body, or mental activity (the latter includes emotions and thoughts). Practice it for a few moments or for a few minutes—lying on your bed, sitting in a doctor’s office or on a park bench, standing in line. Anywhere.
What’s the difference between meditation and mindfulness?
1. Meditative practices are found in most religious and spiritual traditions. The Buddha didn’t invent meditation. He did, however, devise the practice of mindful awareness—what we call mindfulness.
2. Mindfulness can be practiced inside or outside of formal meditation. Meditation is a technique for practicing mindfulness in a structured setting; it can improve your mindfulness skills outside of meditation.
How do you practice mindfulness outside of meditation?
Take three or four conscious breaths while resting your attention on the sensation of the breath coming in and going out of your body. You may have been aware of a sound, a smell, or maybe a bodily sensation other than the breath. Careful attention to whatever is happening in the present moment is the essence of mindfulness. The sensation of the breath is often used as an anchor because breathing is always present in the moment.
It may surprise you to learn that practicing mindfulness outside of meditation is a major component of meditation retreats. For example, while eating, the instruction is to pay careful attention to the food being pierced by the fork, being raised to your mouth, touching your tongue, being chewed and then swallowed.
This eating sequence is a succession of moments of mindfulness and may include the sight and smell of the food, the physical sensation of your arm being raised to your mouth, the sound of the food being chewed, the taste of the food, and even the thought, “This food is good.”
On a retreat, everyone participates in “work meditation.” I always signed up to put food away after meals. I’d perform the task slowly, so I could be mindful of the sights and sounds and physical sensations as I picked an appropriate container, put the leftover food into it, covered it, and put it in the refrigerator.
What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness outside of meditation?
1. Mindfulness gives the mind a rest from our fixation on discursive thinking. Of course, we need to think at times. But the mind tends to get lost in stressful thoughts about the past and the future: we replay painful experiences from the past; we mock up worst-case-scenarios about the future. It’s exhausting and rarely productive. Paying attention to what is happening in the present moment is a welcome relief from these stressful and habitual thought patterns.
2. Mindfulness takes us out of ourselves. You can see from #1 that most of that discursive thinking is self-focused. It’s refreshing and energizing to open our awareness to the world around us instead of always being preoccupied with our personal stories. Mindfulness also helps us cope with painful physical sensations when their intensity takes over our entire sense of self and we feel we are nothing but painful sensations (see my post, Mindfulness: Potent Medicine for Easing Physical Suffering).
3. Mindfulness turns a boring activity into an adventure. My work meditation—putting food away after a meal—may have sounded boring. But with mindful awareness, it became an adventure: finding just the right-sized container for the amount of food that was left; transferring the food from the serving tray into the container without spilling it (all the while enjoying the stimulation of my sense of smell!). This intentional engagement with what is happening in the present moment generates curiosity not boredom.
4. Mindfulness frees us from judgment. Non-judgmental awareness of whatever presents itself to the senses is a key feature of mindfulness. We become friendly and impartial observers, free to put down the heavy burden of judging. In this way, mindfulness is a doorway to equanimity because the essence of equanimity is being calmly present in the midst of both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. Note: This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take action to prevent harm to ourselves or another. Mindfulness, like all Buddhist practices, is intended to alleviate suffering. We know when to abandon our impartial observation and grab a child who’s about to step out into traffic!
5. Mindfulness enables us to make wise choices. When our minds are caught up in stressful thought patterns, it’s hard to see through the mental clutter. We get confused and become reactive, not reflective. Then we’re more likely to respond to others unskillfully, perhaps saying something we later regret. (When I first lost my health, I vented my anger and frustration at many a person who intended me no harm.) But if we’ve practiced mindfulness in the midst of both pleasant and unpleasant experiences, we’re more likely to be aware of our reactive tendencies and can catch ourselves, take a conscious breath, and choose a more skillful way to respond.
6. Mindfulness opens our hearts and minds to the world unfolding right before us. The great Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön (a chronic illness sufferer herself), describes this as, “Letting the world speak for itself.” When I practice mindfulness outside of meditation, I often use this phrase as a sort of mantra: “Let the world speak for itself,” I silently say. The world answers with the full array of life’s experiences—the squawking of a scrub jay, the breeze in my face, the sadness in a child’s cry, the sight of a young couple in love.
© 2011 Toni Bernhard
Toni Bernhard is the author of the How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers, named one of the best books of 2010 by Spirituality and Practice.
She can be found online at www.howtobesick.com
(Boston, MA)—Scan daily headlines, and it’s more apparent than ever that the secret to finding relief from today’s modern-day stress and anxiety may lie in the ancient practice of mindfulness. No longer just a Buddhist or spiritual practice, researchers in psychotherapy, general medicine, education, and even the military have found great benefit in its application.
Mindfulness is the practice of developing presence in all aspects of our lives—whether we are working, driving, gardening, cleaning, or having dinner with our families. A state of constant, peaceful presence is the goal and result of mindfulness. Practitioners of mindfulness find that a mindful approach to relationships leads to greater relationship satisfaction; a mindful approach to exercise both increases its benefits and supports a healthier lifestyle; and mindful eating leads to greater weight loss.
Despite the growing awareness of mindfulness, there still remain places or communities where it has not yet been heard of. To that end, Wisdom Publications has declared September 12th Mindfulness Day—a day to raise awareness about the value and benefits of mindfulness, as well as allow individual groups to experiment with and practice meditation. Mindfulness Day offers people a chance to start fresh and recharge by integrating mindfulness in their own personal way. This day offers individuals and communities a chance to embrace a practice they may have never heard about, experiment with it, and make it their own if they enjoy it.
“It’s our goal that Mindfulness Day will raise awareness about the value and benefit mindfulness brings for everyone on our planet,” says Tim McNeill, president and publisher of Wisdom Publications. “Our hope is that by creating this forum we will give others the freedom and opportunity to share with us, and one another, their own experiences. Our overall plan is to inspire people to be mindful and to encourage the general public to initiate their own ways of observing this first annual Mindfulness Day.”
Wisdom Publications has created an online presence and community for interested persons to obtain information about Mindfulness Day, mindfulness, and meditation as well as network with others. Participants are encouraged to share information, coordinate mindfulness events, and offer stories and video on how mindfulness has impacted them.