I’ve noticed that when I explain Mindfulness these days I am especially emphasizing the active ending of the definition: Mindfulness is the balanced recognition of arising experiences, external and internal, moment to moment, so that the mind remains clear and energetic enough to respond wisely and kindly. The words, “to respond” are crucial. Twenty years ago, I wrote a book titled Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There. The title was meant to be a playful riff on the injunction to children by parents and teachers to do homework rather than daydream. I meant it to mean, “Try meditating.” I still mean that, but I am aware also that it’s possible to mistake the instruction for cultivating balance and non-reactivity, for developing passivity or even submissiveness. Inactivity when there are choices to be made is indifference and a form of aversion. What I want for people to understand is that Mindfulness is the best guarantee that our responses will be alleviating suffering, and certainly not causing suffering. The poet Pablo Neruda, in his poem, “Keeping Quiet” says, “What I want should not be confused with inactivity. Life is what it is about…”
I think about voting as an expression of Mindful attention. Spirit Rock is soon planning to revive a class we had a decade ago called “Informed Citizenship as Spiritual Practice.” Each month we had people representing different views about a particular social issue present their views. I look forward to inaugurating that class.