Cultivating mindfulness

Lavender

In a 2012 survey of British young people (16-23 y.o.) about the origins of the food they eat, 40% were unable to link an image of a dairy cow with milk. 7% instead thought milk comes from wheat.  A survey this year also found that 30% of UK primary students thought cheese was made from plants, and a quarter believed fish fingers came from chicken or pigs. Nearly one in three British adults had no idea how potatoes were grown, and one in five thought that parsnips thrived on trees. Hopefully Australians are a little more knowledgeable about growing food, but the link between cultivating food, and grabbing it off a supermarket shelf, is certainly more tenuous than for past generations. A counter movement has been the increasing popularity of home vegie gardens, farmers markets, and taking food miles into account when shopping.

The Pali word for meditation is ‘bhavana’, which means ‘to cultivate.’ To cultivate something implies ongoing effort and attention. It’s easy to stick a seed into the ground, and at the time of planting, you feel pretty good. This is like going to a workshop on mindfulness, or reading an inspirational book – you might feel you’ve done something important that you will benefit from. Yet most of the time, simply planting a seed isn’t enough. We also need to nurture it – by watering it, providing compost and other nutrients, and keeping the area free of weeds. Young plants also need to be protected against pest and diseases. All this has to be done on an ongoing basis, whether you feel like it or not. You might be in a rush to get to work but have to water the garden in the morning before a hot day. You might yearn for a lazy Saturday afternoon, but instead find yourself out in the drizzling rain weeding the vegie patch. This is like having a regular meditation practice – you just do the meditation, regardless of whether you are in the mood for it or not, whether you’d really prefer to be doing something else with your time. Continue reading “Cultivating mindfulness” »