Early today in the midst of a contemplative, sacred pause (#asacredpause), I had an insight. And this insight has stayed with me throughout the day. It seems that possibly this was one of those illusive “aha” moments when a creative breeze or whisper passes over us and the curtains of the mind flutter; nonetheless, I have not been able to shake it. And, it all began with a heightened awareness of “and,” the “&,” the AMPERSAND.
I then began to follow a storyline of wondering why it is that there is so much EITHER THIS OR THAT and so little AND in our world today. Consequently, I began to think about my mindfulness practice, particularly relative to the concept of “expanding the container of my consciousness” where I am intentionally able (sometimes, not always) to hold with relative comfort two different or seemingly contrasting views in my mind . . . and in my heart. And, I began to notice that when I do this, there is a distinct relaxing, a softening, a release of the tightness in my chest that appears to originate from holding on to an EITHER/OR perspective.
And so, I started thinking about some of the things of this world where I have been able to use the magic of the ampersand to find ease and relative comfort when all around me on Facebook and Twitter, and certainly on network television, there is a mighty war being waged between the forces who support only a THIS or THAT consciousness and worldview. So, here’s some truth. With an expanded, relaxed and open heart, I can believe in, support, hold to be true, etc. . . .
- Both marines in combat serving our country, firefighters rescuing babies and Caitlyn Jenner as courageous beings.
- Both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, in and out of the church, are good things for the many varied people of this world.
- Both the 2nd Amendment (right to bear arms) and greater gun control are needed today in the United States.
- Both the 14th Amendment (naturalized citizenship) and stricter immigration laws are needed in the United States.
- Both a love of the South and Mississippi, our culture, and our rich histories and a need for a change in our state flag.
- Both Ole Miss and The University of Mississippi.
- Both Ole Miss sports and Mississippi State cheese.
- Both Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
- Both capitalism, free enterprise (for those who can) and socialism (social security, public schools, public libraries, public parks, national defense, U. S. Postal Service,
- National Weather Service, interstate highways, Amtrak, FBI, CIA, FEMA, Dept. of Homeland Security, medicare/Medicaid (for those who can’t)
So, here’s what I say. “Try it.” Try prying open that door in the heart that separates and opposes and imagine holding one thing in one open hand and the other thing in the other open hand. Hold them there together . . . gently, balanced, harmonious. Now, take a few deep breaths in and out, and see if you also begin to notice a relaxation, an easing of the soul, a letting go of that old tension and fear. Give yourself permission to try “this and that” rather than “this or that.” There’s really no need to take sides. You actually can hold them both peacefully in the magic of the ampersand. I wonder what the world would be like if we all started consciously doing that?
This past week I completed a four-day training for teacher certification conducted by the KORU Center for Mindfulness at Duke University. Fortunately the training was held at a wonderfully pastoral site – the Earthrise at IONS Retreat Center just outside of Petaluma, in northern Marin County, California. Nice cool temperatures and low humidity in August were so refreshing for this Mississippi guy.
KORU mindfulness training is specifically designed for teachers of college students and emerging adults (ages 18 – 29) and was created by Dr. Holly Rogers and Dr. Margaret Maytan in the fall of 2005 while they were both serving as clinicians at the Duke University Counseling and Psychological Services Center and Clinical Associates in the Department of Psychiatry at the renowned Duke University Medical Center.
The textbook for the training, authored by Drs. Rogers and Maytan, which has some invaluable information on the specifics of teaching mindfulness successfully to college students, is Mindfulness For The Next Generation – Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives, Oxford University Press, 2012.
I am so grateful once again that my University has supported me in this training,and I am anxious to bring these newly refined mindfulness skills into my classroom this fall. Hotty Toddy, freshmen! Get ready to go minds up!