“Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”
This is one of those statements that just gets to you. It’s from a collection of stories by James Joyce. And Mr. Duffy’s address just took my breath away. In one way, we all could be Mr. Duffy’s neighbours, you know. We all do live a short distance from our bodies. Literally. We have lost touch with reality. We have lost touch with others and more importantly, we have lost touch with ourselves. You don’t agree? Ok, just imagine this. You are at the airport on time and all ready. And your flight gets delayed and you are stuck there for two hours. What do you do after a whole half hour of cursing and feeling angry? If you are the chatty type, you will probably strike up a conversation with someone next to you. If not, man’s best friend, the laptop comes out. Or some mindless and dumb flipping on the so-called ‘smart’ phone. Can you imagine yourself sitting there? Just sitting there. Aware of the delay and its consequences. Aware of the fact that you are sitting there. Aware of the people around you. Sitting there enjoying that moment because that moment is what is real at that time. However, we normally do something or we think something and eventually end up feeling many things. And most likely we tend to dwell on unpleasant things and end up feeling unpleasant. So like Mr. Duffy, we may be physically sitting there but we are most likely miles away.
To confront oneself is not easy. To just be and to be aware needs practice. Being mindful and practicing mindfulness is what will help us live in the present. Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn says, “Mindfulness is observing body and mind intentionally, of letting your experiences unfold from moment to moment and accepting them as they are. It does not involve trying to control anything at all other than the focus and direction of your attention”. It is a mental habit of accepting and living fully, richly and attentively, in the present moment. It is a way of living and means being here now.
It is an intentional awareness of now and experiencing it without judging or evaluating. And what it needs is patience in allowing things to unfold in their own time. We need to understand that each moment is a unique gift and to realise that not any one moment in the past or in the future was/is more precious than the one we have now. Practicing mindfulness is not easy and one thing that will help is to have an almost child-like beginners mind. This gives us the ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s like my two year old daughter running up to me happily and hugging me tight each and every day when I go to pick her up from her play group. It’s just the same me every day. Or the wonder and excitement on her face when I read to her from her favourite story book every night. But she finds something new to get excited about it every single time.
Mindfulness is also about non-striving or a sense of non-doing. It’s about acceptance, acknowledging things as they are. Denial wastes energy and time that can be used for healing and growth. We must be able to let go, achieve a sense of non-attachment and let things be.
And when we do this, we get to know ourselves better, understand and accept others. I just want to leave you with a few of these words – gentleness, generosity, empathy, gratitude, and loving kindness. This is all we need to find our correct address and may be even help a Mr. Duffy on the way!