“Your own awareness can hold the infinity of the universe.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
~ T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” (The Four Quartets)
Past the midpoint of my life, I am often astounded at how little I seem to understand myself (much less the world), not just who I am now but who I am at my core. What are the threads, if any, that connect my two-year-old self with my mother-in-law self and extend into the future, reaching toward my old woman self?
One answer came quite unexpectedly this week as I was doing some research on mindfulness and found an interview with Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer. Langer’s book The Power of Mindful Learning, which I read soon after it was published in 1998, was instrumental in shaping my ideas of education and parenting and, later, homeschooling. Her ideas drew me in at the time almost without my will. They were comfortable in a familiar way, as though I had stumbled upon a forgotten box of childhood treasures. Watch Langer talk about “Mindfulness over matter“:
If I go back even further, my first encounter with meditation was far earlier, in my early teens when I read a book on transcendental meditation, probably in the late 1970s. To this day I cannot remember where I found the book—it may have been from a teacher or a book my mother had ordered from a book club. What I do remember is being captivated by the ideas and lying on the floor of my room in rural South Dakota, chanting mantras and waiting to feel different.
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
~ T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” (The Four Quartets)
Perhaps I should not be surprised, then, that after all these years I am once again drawn to mindfulness, for reasons both different from before and always the same.
If you have wanted to learn more about mindfulness meditation but don’t know where to start, watch meditation teacher, author, and University of Massachusetts Medical School professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about how mindfulness is something that no one can take away from us, then browse the online resources listed below. Who knows? You may just discover the still point of your own ever turning world.
- Highly Recommended: Jon Kabat-Zinn Interviewed by Anderson Cooper (60 Minutes)
- Is Mindfulness Good Medicine? (Scientific American)
- For Depression Treatment, Meditation Might Rival Medication (Forbes)
- Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Relieve Anxiety and Depression (NPR)
- Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity (Harvard Business Review, interview with Ellen Langer)
- Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain (Harvard Business Review)