When my home was in Taos, New Mexico, my life education was filled with ideas and practices that were new to me. While jobs included being head of a school, working in a bookstore, gallery and museum, my brain was overwhelmed with the creativity of different philosophies, belief systems and the colors of the night sky. Even though my visits to that part of New Mexico started as a teenager, living there full time brought an opening to my senses that changed the way I lived my life.
That special place on the map is where the concept of Mindfulness was introduced to me. If you have never heard of it, or practiced it, now is the time. An elder has the perfect opportunity and wisdom to engage in the concept, and an exceptional elder will soon understand how it helps with your transition to a more introspective life.
The cat I had at the time was named K. C. and was a rescued feral burmese cat from the city. She loved to go outside, and she might bring back a snake or a mouse and drop it at my feet as an offering. But mostly, she stayed inside and spent hours teaching me how to be a good human owner. She was my first cat ever, and we were lucky to find each other. A human friend, much more enlightened than me, sat one day in the rented house on the mesa having tea and we watched the cat sleeping next to one of the huge windows in a patch of sun. She was stretched out and occasionally her tail would twitch or her ears wiggle, but that animal was as relaxed as an old shoe.
That is when my first lesson in mindfulness began. Being in the moment. Being silent and observing everything around you. Hearing the hum of the refrigerator, feeling the warmth of the sun, watching the cat’s breath move her chest up and down. This was not a formal meditation, but a way to pay attention to your life before those individual moments become the past. After numerous lessons that helped me be with the pleasant or unpleasant, I could shift into the mindfulness mode much more easily. It is staying out of the past and the future and totally being with each of your breaths..right now.
Two suggestions for books: Wherever you Go, There You Are Jon Kabat Zinn and Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko. The Mindfulness Project is interesting to read about and the MindUp program for kids in the UK is outstanding.
Being mindful on your journey to becoming an extraordinary elder has an extra bonus. How many hours and days do you think we all wasted in being busy, multitasking, making money, spending money, thinking too much about things we could not change and waiting for our life to start? Now that there is less time forward than behind us, we can savor every part of life if we train ourselves to slip effortlessly into mindfulness. (the downside is that people may come over to you in public and tell you that you are drooling) just kidding.
One of my ways of being resilience is to remember that you can handle what ever comes to you–until the moon hits the earth it is not the end of the world. You keep doing what you can. That translates into the phrase, and the cat still sits in the sun. The cat now is named Katniss Cleopatra and as an abused cat it took her over a year to relax enough with me to sit in the sun with me in the room. But now she does, and she trusts me enough to allow me to watch her breathe.