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Mindfulness is an outward journey

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What’s your idea of mindfulness? A person sitting cross-legged with eyes closed? Peaceful bamboo trees? A serene zen garden? In spite of much research to illustrate the difference between mindfulness and relaxation, mindfulness is still perceived by many as a blissful technique, somehow detached, and separate from real life. An oasis we create for ourselves to step out of a frantic world.

I don’t know how things look where you are, but in Palestine the inner and outer landscape tend to be a bit more tense. Serenity is scarce, and bamboos are nowhere to be seen.

It is precisely in these conflictual zones that I value mindfulness, not because of its blissful effects (I have experience none of them), but because it helps me to remain grounded in a pretty crazy land.

As any authentic inward journey, mindfulness is meant as a way to enrich the ‘outward journey’. It is nothing else but a way to be able to ‘see’ and relate to one another with more clarity, choice, and openness – not by virtue of denial, but by virtue of awareness and curiosity.

Humanitarian or social change organisations need mindfulness to build resilience and prevent burnout, and to be aware of the impact of our good intentions in the outer world.

***

Here’s a beautiful poem on the ‘inner or outer journey’. Enjoy!

“The Journey” by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.

***

Photos by Alessandra Pigni

Photo #1 Zen Garden, London

Photo #2 The separation wall in Bethlehem, Palestine

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Mindfulnext/Aid to Zen 2011-2017 Creative Commons License
Mindfulnext by Alessandra Pigni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.