This is from my sharing at the Frye Art Museum on Veteran’s Day Nov 11, 2015
November 11, 2015 Veteran’s Day at the Frye
So, in honor of Veteran’s Day, I wanted to share a story about a Vet’s experience with MF, help underscore how MF plays a role in his experience, and then guide us through a MF meditation.
This story comes from Jack Kornfield, who is an excellent meditation teacher, speaker and author:
Jack Kornfield often tells a story about a young Marine with deep anger issues who he worked with to feel into his body in such a way that he was able to sense very quickly when his anger was triggered. Through ‘coming back to his senses’, he was able to create a conscious space in which all his reactions could be experienced from enough distance to allow a sort of loving calm in the middle of his storms.
The soldier was at the supermarket at the end of a tough evening, the lines were long, and a couple people ahead of him was a woman holding a baby with too many items in her cart. This triggered his anger immediately and his mind raged with angry assessments: “I’m exhausted, these lines are ridiculous, she shouldn’t be in the express lane but of course she doesn’t even think about where she is…” To make matters worse, the woman hands the baby over to the cashier, another woman who cooed and snuggled, and so the line was held up even longer. And the officer suddenly realized, “Oh! This is anger!” and he started to breathe deeply, sense his tense, contracting body, observe his pain and anguish, and become aware of the stories he was telling in his mind. In a few moments something in him started to relax and open. He looked out again and saw that, oh, he’s actually a cute kid.
When he got up to the cashier, he said, “That was a cute little boy.”
“Oh, did you like him?” she said, “He’s my boy. You see, my husband was killed in Iraq last year, so now I have to work two jobs now. My mom takes care of him and she brings him in so I can say goodnight to him.”
When we train in mindfulness, we cultivate the flexibility of not only our thinking and self-awareness, but our hearts become more open, and in doing so we increase the possibility that we can more fully know the human beings around us, and the fact of our kinship can come alive.
So, in addition to being a touching story, it’s an example of skillful mindfulness, so I wanted to break it down a bit to make it applicable to all of us.
We all get triggered by life.
First step, once triggered, is to notice. To pause.
For some of us we’ll get clued in to our struggle by a Thought: “She shouldn’t be in the express lane”
For some of us, it will be by an emotion: Anger, Frustration, and Annoyance
For some of us, it will be our body sensations- tension, contraction, tightness in the body.
Any of these can be powerful tools/ flashlights shining on our state of upset.
We are then encouraged to Pause – notice what is with awareness and curiosity. Bring an attitude of acceptance, acknowledging what is (“anger”), a patience to let it pass through the body rather than reacting to it. And of course, the power of sitting with our breath, to keep us from running away or acting out, to create some stability to allow our own wisdom and good intentions to arise.
Then bring our intentions to mind – for example, to respond to life in a kind and skillful, compassionate way.
The other thing I want to highlight, and we’ll use in our guided meditation – is how MF helps us go from a narrow, tight, self-focused attitude, to one of noticing our common humanity, our connection and caring for others. I often like to use the phrase: Just Like Me, to help cross the bridges of our seeming separations from others.