Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Connecting at the Threshold


Along with drinking at least sixty-four ounces of distilled, purified or filtered water and breaking the fast in a healthy and safe way, mindfulness is an essential component of our fasting. Being in each moment fully, just as it is, with compassion and without judgment, helps us to see the true perfection in all things and the truth that there is nothing but Now. We cannot fix what is past, nor can we move beyond today to some more appealing future. When we understand this, we are able to access the present moment and use for all of its inherent advantages, knowing that the answer to the critical question, the insight we've been searching for and the grace we know to be available to us, all exist in the Now.

Fasting is a particularly opportune time to practice mindfulness. While fasting we are so much more aware of our physical selves; experiencing the body as it goes from full to a gentle emptiness. So it is a natural transition to train the spotlight of that awareness on each moment of the day. Although this is a simple practice to perform, the difficulty comes in remembering to do it. We spend so much of our day focused on the past or worried about the future that it rarely, if ever, occurs to us that the gift of the present moment – the encouraging smile of the one sitting across from us or the kindness of our neighbor – is there as the answer to the prayer we've been praying for so long.

When I am having a particularly difficult time staying in the moment I do what my husband and I have termed the "threshold practice." Mindfulness practitioners all over the world have some version of this practice that they employ in an effort to stay present. It requires only that I drop into the Now each time I cross a threshold in my home. If my telephone rings and I have to go to the kitchen to answer it, I make sure that when I move through the doorway from the living room to the kitchen I am fully aware of my breath, movements, and state of mind. This has been a revealing practice in that I have caught myself being a million miles away from the spot in which I am standing, feeling anxious or melancholy, frustrated or even overly excited. Crossing that threshold allows me to reconnect with the present moment, to just be walking to the telephone. Just breathing in a normal measured pace. Just being in the safe space of my home where nothing is happening except that I am moving towards the steady ring.

Practicing in this way keeps the stress at bay, keeps me available and responsive (as opposed to reactive) when my presence or attention is suddenly needed elsewhere. It regularly leads me towards a calm where I can hear what needs to be done or said next, so I error in word and deed less frequently.

Jon Kabat-Zinn writes about his own version of the threshold practice in his seminal book on Mindfulness entitled "Wherever You Go, There You Are."


"Try to use ordinary repetitive occasions in your own house as invitations to practice mindfulness. Going to the front door, answering the telephone, seeking out someone else in the house to speak with, going to the bathroom, getting the laundry our of the dryer, going to the refrigerator, can all be occasions to slow down and be in touch with the present moment. Notice the inner feelings which push you towards the telephone or doorbell on the first ring. Why does your response time have to be so fast that it pulls you out of the life you were living in the preceding moment? Can these transitions become more graceful? Can you be more where you find yourself, all the time…..Can you make your entire day as it unfolds into an occasion to be present or to bring yourself back to the present over and over again?"

2 comments:

camilyn said...

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Mano said...

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