26 January 2010

Being mindful

A team of colleagues just down the hallway from me work with a variety of constituents and they all have a mail tray installed on the wall just adjacent to their door to receive any urgent paperwork if they happen to be out. They decorate these mail trays with pretty seasonal trinkets and it is a colorful addition to my frequent walks to the printer, elevator, etc. With the season of Lent soon upon us, the current decoration is a bright, feathery Mardi Gras flourish.

Lent is a particularly wonderful season in the Christian religion, because it is all about being mindful. [This is in the Christianity according to my own brain. I do not profess to be a scholar of religion, by any remote stretch of the imagination, so if my interpretations are incorrect, then I humbly stand corrected.] The phrase that resonates with me from a Lenten homily is “ashes to ashes,” encouraging us to be mindful of the finite nature of our existence and the enduring cycle of life.

Nature itself gives us an infinite variety of metaphors of this cycle. The ebb and flow of the tide, the dawn and dusk of the earth’s rotation, the seasonal changes of the earth’s revolution around the sun, the flowering and fruition of trees and plants. Even with the recent harsh freeze, there is evident damage to many of the tropical trees and shrubs around town. But Nature will repair what She can.

At the place where I work, acknowledging death comes with the territory. It does not make it a dreary or depressing place to work; it simply reinforces the importance of celebrating the life that we have. One of our board members passed just this past weekend and the wife of another board member passed not too long ago last year. These are people that have touched our institution and so many others with their time, love and generous gifts. Frequently the people with whom we work are suffering from the loss of a child and as part of their healing process, they will establish an endowment, or an annual fundraising event to celebrate the life of their loved one. Every loss is a loss. None of any more or less importance than another. Sobering and harsh.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with two colleagues a number of years ago. One was telling a story of working on a farm when she was a young girl and falling in love with the lambs. She did not want to eat lamb after that because of her connection with the animals for which she cared. I gently suggested that perhaps the fact that the lamb was special had not so much to do with her personal love for the lambs, but due to the fact that they were all creatures of God. God loves us all equally. Maybe it was inappropriate to say that out loud, but I felt then, and still now in my heart that it was true. Perspective about life in the larger picture.

So I set forth about this day remembering to keep gratitude and mindfulness in the front of my consciousness.


  1. Beautiful thoughts, as always, Diane! Loved this post especially because our work places are similar. There is much transition and talk of it as donors are remembered and celebrated--both for who they are and for how they carve legacies through their philanthropy.

  2. Thought provoking post ... I moved away from the traditional 'give something up for Lent' philosophy some time ago. Most people interpret that as 'do without chocolate' or 'stop doing something you enjoy' for the duration. These days, in the spirit of your 'being mindful', I choose to make myself do something instead. I try to do something every day that normally I wouldn't think of doing, or bother doing; something productive, whether a craft, or sorting out a long-overdue cupboard, or taking the time to visit a neglected friend.

    And like you, I feel that all life is sacred. All life. Whether earthworm, spider, lamb or bacterium. Sometimes, in order to survive, we have to destroy life, but we should always do so in a mindful way, taking care not to cause more distress or pain than necessary. And that's my idiosyncratic view on religion.

  3. "to keep gratitude and mindfulness in the front of my consciousness' is a pure, beautiful, and selfless act any time of the year. You are a wonderful soul.