Yesterday I dropped my two year old off at pre-school and one of her classmates was crying. I watched my daughter's teacher shift the other little girl's mood by scooping her up, settling her into this gigantic plush teddybear chair, and reading a book to her.The two year old quickly quieted.
Anyone who's dropped a child off at preschool has witnessed this scene themselves. What clicked for me this time was the role that the senses played in clearing the way for a fresh state of mind. In this case the child was engaged in touching the fluffy bear, hearing the teacher's voice, and seeing the colorful illustrations in the book.
Recently I was at meditation retreat led by Jon Kabat Zinn, and when he introduced mindful walking, a kind of meditation practice, he said, "Put your mind in your feet." At first I found this instruction difficult, my mind didn't quite get it. But after walking, I think my feet did.
It seems to me that following the instruction to put our minds in our senses, to the extent that we are able, can produce a quick shift in mood. Next time you need a shift, what would it be like to put your mind in your nose while smelling a lavender eye mask or your mind in your hands while washing lettuce?
In this picture I'm pretty sure my two year old has her mind in her fingers and in her eyes and in her nose. Inspiring!
According to the most recent Pew report on religious life in America, the fastest growing religious affiliation in the United States is not having one. Currently, the non-religious make up 16% of our population, that number is growing, especially along the coasts and with young people.
This is a personal one for me because at 18 I very consciously dropped a religious affiliation that had shaped my life. The leaving was painful in a few ways, but it piqued a personal challenge to build a spiritual practice outside the boundary of a religion or traditional notion of god. This was not always an easy personal challenge for me to take on, especially because after a somewhat successful academic and professional career, I felt embarrassed about pursuing a topic that others might consider “hippy dippy,” “new agey” or just plain, no quotes needed, weird. Consequently, I cultivated a kind of “closeted” spiritual life.
But it was this statistic, combined with alarming statistics about the increasing rates of depression (at younger and younger ages) in the United States, that’s given me the sense of purpose I’ve needed to bring this personal challenge out of the closet in a bigger way.
Right now that commitment is calling me to connect with others who share this kind of question. My hope is that by sharing some of what feels real and true to me, others might be inclined to do the same, and that together, we can authentically reclaim some of what is joyful, hopeful, mysterious and universal about being human.
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