Lately, at my granddaughter’s request, I’ve been reading a lot of Winnie the Pooh. A.A. Milne’s silly old bear is famous for saying, “Think, think, think!” But then he really doesn’t have the capacity for doing too much of it. He does however view life in a simple, appreciative, almost Taoist manner, seeing things just as they are, and dealing with whatever crosses his path with his trademark simple silliness. Because of this and in spite of this, Pooh’s life is full of fun, loving friends and lots of honey. His life is good. When Pooh commands himself to think, he’s instructing himself to be mindful, to pay attention to what is there, right in front of his silly ole bear self. When he does this, all predicaments are resolved and happiness resides within him and the Hundred Acre Wood.
Those of us who’ve tried meditation as a tool for finding our jubilant, peaceful, “life is good” place sometimes bemoan the fact that thinking is exactly what we’re trying not to do. We’re steadfastly trying to backhoe our minds. But there’s a distinction between thinking and being mindful. Young children are Lilliputian experts at being mindful, being present, abiding in the moment. That’s why they’re able to be infinitely optimistic and their lives contain so much mirth. As adults, we fail miserably at being in the moment much of the time, living for the next best thing to happen or water coolering about the last worst thing that did. We’re too busy ruminating about some past misdeed or injustice or filled with anxiety about some future “what if” to be present and mindful of the moment. Consequently, worry and stress take up residence as squatters in our minds when we think too much and mind too little.
As children we’re told to “mind our manners” and minding them means paying attention to them. The inference is if we display good manners, people will react kindly to us, we’ll be held in high esteem, and invited back. We’ll connect with others in a positive way while avoiding parental embarrassment (and we won’t get the proverbial switch on our behinds when we get home). If there’s a goal to be reached, we’re advised to “put our mind to it” which means to be focused and mindful of the goal and formulate a plan for reaching it. The supposition there is that we’ll achieve success. If we’re attempting to understand something or connect with an idea, we’re encouraged to “open our minds”, or be mindful by allowing the idea to receive our full attention. The reasoning is that which is tended to will grow and prosper.
Coach Taylor of NBC’s Friday Night Lights fame exhorted his West Dillon Panthers (and now the East Dillon Lions on the other side of the tracks) to embrace the motto of “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”. The clear eyes admonishment has zilch to do with lovable, bad boy Riggins’s propensity for having perpetually (beer induced) bloodshot eyes. It has everything to do with seeing clearly in the moment, being mindful of what is going on and reacting to it appropriately. Which brings us to the “full heart”. If the boys are combining those clear eyes with hearts full of love for their team, they can’t lose.
As each day unfolds in the real lives we live, it’s in the Pooh-like, clear eyes, full heart, fully present and mindful mode of operation that we’ll be able to connect to our own spirits and that of others. In that space, in the connection between us and all “other” is the only place where we’ll find all that is good, all that is as delectable as Pooh’s honey, and all of our personal and team Ws, if we’ll just be present and mindful.
Peace and Love