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mindfulness, lament for a leaf

October 15, 2009

Mindfulness – that word gets used a lot in Buddhism, it is one of the main themes. To me, mindfulness means having my mind solely on what I’m doing, whatever it is. In order to fully experience life, I need to be mindful.

I don’t know if mindfulness is always good. If I’m in pain or ill, I don’t want to fully experience the depths of what it is I’m feeling, but then, looking forward to a time when the pain is gone isn’t so great either – could make the pain seem worse, perhaps.

Anyway.. I mostly would like to be more mindful.

I just got in from raking leaves. It is dark now. It was beautiful outside at dusk. A warm evening, the birds singing, watching the colors fade in the west, the trees still green, but not for much longer.

I could tell it was beautiful outside, but I wasn’t mindful of it – my mind caught up in the usual daydreams of imaginary conversations with people I’ve never met, most of whom do not exist. I suppose that is what lonely semi-misanthropic people do instead of having actual conversations. The trouble is such mental patters tend to cause distraction, are sometimes unpleasant and worst of all, are  habit forming. Very habit forming.

So instead of really feeling the beauty, really experiencing it, my mind only noticed it a little. Inside my head, I was too busy having a conversation.

All the leaves I was raking were green except for a few. There was one that didn’t come from one of the gecko trees which lines our block. I don’t know where this leaf blew in from. We had a storm on Tuesday with lots of wind.

This leaf was unusually beautiful, not because it had turned gold or orange, but because it was quite pale – very muted color, but nice vein lines through it (I don’t know the botanical term, but you can tell what I mean, maybe).

This leaf was bleakly lovely, and I wanted to draw it. I picked it up, set it on the porch, and continued raking. My mind wanders badly in general, but when I am doing some sort of manual labor like yard work, my mind is worse. I hadn’t noticed that the leaf had been caught by a barely noticeable breeze for just a second or two, and blown into the pile of the other leaves I was raking.

I didn’t notice it was there until I’d put one of the tongs of the rake right through it. That might have been the only leaf I impaled. There it was – run through. I’d done it because I was not paying attention.

Sure, I could draw the leaf with a hole through it, but I felt I’d spoiled its beauty. I put it in the barrel with the others.

It got me thinking.. and this part is harder to put into words..

Let’s say there is something good in my life that I want to do, or to preserve and develop, but I can’t get to it at the moment, because I need to take care of something else. So, I set it aside, but not too carefully, and go about whatever I feel I need to get done.

My mind is not on the task I am performing, and somehow, through not being mindful of what I am doing, I accidentally wreck this good thing I’ve set aside for later.

If I had been mindful of where I put the rake, I would have noticed the pale leaf amongst the others, and picked it up, and put it in a safer place, and it would be sitting on a shelf here in my room, and I would have it to draw and look at.

I was not mindful, and so lament the loss of the leaf, but have learned a lesson. In the future, I need to be more careful of good things I want to develop  – whether it be an art project or a relationship, and if I am not working on that art project or interacting with someone I’m in the relationship with, then I need to be mindful of whatever it is I am doing, so I can do it right.

If I don’t do things right, then I am making my life worse in some small way, and possibly spoiling whatever good I was hoping to get to later.

For example.. let’s say  I am thinking intently about making love to a woman, but that is something I hope to do later, and at the moment, I’m driving. I need to focus on driving or else I might have an accident, a bad one even, and won’t do any making love at all, and perhaps spend the rest of my days sitting on a cloud playing a harp instead! If I just get into a fender bender, I’ll have to deal with a disgruntled driver whose car I plowed into, the insurance mess, and my own bad mood.

I may learn a lesson, so something good can come from my mistake. But I don’t always want to be learning lessons – especially learning them by bringing misfortune upon myself. Instead of learning by painful experience, I’d rather be mindful of what I am doing, and therefore do things right. Easier said than done, I know, but critically important, and worth working on.

I hope this blog makes sense. It can be tough to articulate feelings and extrapolate lessons from experience.

The leaf is lost, but the lesson is learned.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2009 2:35 AM

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

    • tomschronicles permalink
      October 19, 2009 5:30 PM

      It does take work, but is well worth it. Thanks for reading!

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