Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Playing mindfulness

She sits quietly, reverently. Almost solemnly. She picks up the mallet to invite the bell to ring. As she gently strikes the bell, I giggle. Out of the blue. I am tickled by the thought that we are playing mindfulness. Our playground is the Sangha, and sitting meditation is the game. We take our game seriously. When kids play hide and seek, they try to be super quiet, so that no one can find them. If they are discovered, they run as fast as they can back to base, before the seeker can tap them. And then they play again. And again. And again. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We adults play mindfulness. We bow when we enter the room. We bow when we sit down, we bow when we get up. We bow when we serve tea. We bow when we drink tea. We bow to our teachers. We bow before we go home. We bow to our thoughts and label them “thinking”. We bow to our attention as we go back to our breath. We sit on a cushion and bow to everything that arises. To our entanglement in our thoughts, our presence, our breath. We bow in gratitude, and start over again when we’re lost. There is no winning and losing, there is just playing.

We once did a variation on this game. We were offered pen and paper and invited to write down our thoughts as they arose. I scribbled non-stop. “How much money do I have left?” “What is 38°F in Celsius?” “What should I write in my next blog?” Habitual thoughts, important thoughts, irrelevant thoughts.

My neighbor didn’t write down anything. I got anxious. Scribbling “I’m not mindful enough.” I got envious. Scribbling “My neighbor has a calm mind, and mine is stuffed with thoughts.” I got confused. Scribbling “Which game are we playing? Being mindful of whatever is present, or wining the competition of having the emptiest mind?” I giggle. There is something funny when games turn into competition. The fun is lost, there is just striving for winning. Scribbling “I rather have fun playing mindfulness, than be the best of my Sangha.”

Day 13 Journey into Wholeheartedness

“Vulnerability is being open to the goodness within us and others.”  Sakyong Mipham, The Shambala principle.

There is a woman on the street, who I have never seen looking up, who always sits huddled, and often has a frown on her face,  I am not scared of her, just not inclined to engage with her, or give her money.

Today I remembered the quote.  And as she looked up, I opened my window and gave her a dollar.  She started talking to me in a language I didn’t understand, with what I received as an angry look and tone.  And then it dawned on me: there is basic goodness in her, and all I need to do is accept her for who she is, embrace whatever comes up and with my smile affirm how beautiful and precious she is, how lucky we are to have her in our world.

And as she walked back to her spot, I felt such gratitude for the wisdom of Sakyong Mipham, and such trust in our basic human goodness.