Living in the present moment

Reading the New York Times article detailing the use of mindfulness techniques in approaches to elementary school children has gotten me thinking more deeply about the profound effects of meditation and mindfulness. I think it was Mahatma Gandhi who once said that if we could get 1 percent of the world meditating we could eliminate war. Character education is routinely taught in schools. It’s a good thing too, but mindfulness is more about living than thinking. Character education is thinking good thoughts and thinking can never outdo doing. You can act your way into good thinking but very rarely if ever can you think your way into good acting. Therefore mindfulness education is one very simple way to nurture thoughtfulness from which will flow the other virtues that most character education programs would seek.

Yesterday’s post on Separating truth from half truth contained this line: does one stop to separate the truth from the half- truth, the event form the pseudo-event, reality from the manufactured image?–Thomas Merton

Daily we are surrounded with images and words that call us to mindlessness. These come in the form of both events and pseudo events and how do we really know that we aren’t being manipulated for some purpose. What is reality and what is manufactured? We are surrounded by invitations to mindlessness, Both terrorism and the war on terror invite us to mindlessness. Terrorism and the war on it are two sides of the same sword. The answer lies in not hitting back but in sitting mindfully in the present moment and encouraging others to do the same. What has happened, what can happen and what will happen are not reality. What is happening at this instant is reality and that is where our focus ought to be.

4 Replies to “Living in the present moment”

  1. Perhaps it would be even more effective to teach children some contemplative prayer. After all, if schools are seeing sucess teaching kids to envision loving compassion on the playground, think how much more effective it would be if they meditated on the Holy Face!

  2. I don’t hold much hope of contemplative prayer in public schools. Teaching mindfulness won’t happen in most schools because there are some who would see such a practice as looney for a number of reasons. Noted Christian mystics such as Thomas Merton regularly practiced mindfulness and of course there is and has been a Christian-Buddhist dialog for at least forty years. If we can change the paradigm towards a more mindful approach in dealing with school violence and dysfunction then I’m all for it. Having worked in public education for nearly thirty years and having seen some of the tragic stories I think this is a good starting point.

  3. I was thinking they should teach contemplative prayer in parochial schools.

    I should have been more clear. I know that will never get to public schools.

  4. That would be a great idea. I think contemplative prayer has more of place in the church than it currently enjoys. It’s one of the missing pieces in contemporary Christianity and Catholicism in particular. I am part of the Mt. Irenaeus Community and at Mt. Irenaeus I’ve been exposed to contemplative prayer and living. I started attending Mass there a little over seven years ago after a thirty year hiatus from the Church. It was their very Franciscan witness and practice of contemplative prayer that brought me back. I read Seven Storey Mountain nearly thirty years ago, but I never really experienced it anywhere in the church except on my visits to Abbey of the Genesee. I find solitude and silent prayer a tonic I can’t live without.

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