This article is mainly for people who either hate cooking or, even more so, for those who’ve never done it because they think they’ll hate it.
For those people, I have good news: Cooking is a fantastic way to increase your mindfulness. Why is that?
Before answering that question, it’s worth defining what mindfulness is — being present in the moments of your life and not stuck in your mind thinking involuntary thoughts.
Another way to frame mindfulness comes from the story of the Zen master and his disciple who was having difficulties.
Disciple: “Master, I’ve been at the monastery…
As a former Hollywood screenwriter, I’m prone to letting my imagination go wild. I wrote a movie twenty years ago about how the U.S. government could plausibly fall into a dictatorship. Impeachment. The 25th Amendment. Sound familiar?
Then there was a television pilot about a brilliant, charismatic, billionaire, but bipolar, U.S. senator who takes Washington by storm. That one was fun. The first act ended with Senator David King diving into a mosh pit at an ACDC concert.
Imagination gone wild
But this time my imagination is going somewhere WAY deeper and farther off into the future; it is thus…
Let’s face it, mindfulness is pretty simple. It’s about directing our attention to the moment in front of us. So if we’re in the shower, we place our attention on shampooing our hair, not on thinking through the five things we need to get done once we’re out of the shower. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh famously said:
“If you’re doing the dishes, be mindful of doing the dishes.”
So why is it that something so simple is so difficult? [I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the shower, my mind is everywhere but the shower.]
It was a Saturday in September of 1991. I drove from my apartment in Washington, D.C., to McLean, Virginia, to play tennis with Senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-Louisiana).
I had moved to Washington after graduating from Princeton where I’d been a four-year varsity letterman and co-captain my senior year of the tennis team. A year earlier, during the summer of 1986, I’d interned for Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) who happened to be an avid tennis player. …
Meher Baba was one of the most influential Indian spiritual masters of the twentieth century.
One of his most ardent followers is my favorite teacher, Mickey Singer, who brought Baba to my attention.
I could give a rough history of Baba, what he did in life and what his main teachings were, but I’ve found that the best way to convey the wisdom of these great masters is to relate the simple words they offered the world.
With that in mind, the following are my favorite words of wisdom that Baba gave humanity.
1. No amount of prayer or meditation…
The fun and excitement I’ve garnered playing tennis, basketball, running, volleyball and golf have been a blessing for as long as I can remember.
But far more significant than the fun and excitement have been the life lessons sports have taught me. And the good news is, you don’t have to be Michael Jordan to reap these benefits. Ordinary athletic skill will do.
Look no further than my hand-eye coordination-challenged older brother Andy, who's butt I kicked when we were kids in tennis, basketball, ping-pong…you name it. He responded to these childhood shellackings by taking up distance running in high…
There are myriad strategies for traveling the spiritual path. We can focus on nonattachment. Or impermanence. On not clinging or resisting. On not wanting or fearing. We can emphasize letting go. Or being present. And others, I’m sure.
But whatever they are, they all seek to achieve the same thing: Shedding our conditioned, egoic, mind-dominating selves. The more we shed, the more awakened and conscious we become. This manifests as an inward feeling of peace and an outward flow of love and compassion toward others.
Mickey Singer gets it right
My favorite among the above is Mickey Singer’s focus on…
A few months after we got married, my wife and I moved to Paris for two months. She had just left a stressful job, and I was writing a screenplay about Teddy Roosevelt so we figured, I can write anywhere so why not Paris? And off we went.
We rented a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the Latin Quarter, about two hundred yards down from the Pantheon where Voltaire, Victor Hugo (Les Miserables), and Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers) are buried, among other French luminaries.
Our life was idyllic. I’d wake up early, get an espresso and a croissant, then come…
Be present. Be in the moment. It’s what so many spiritual traditions offer up as the most important endeavor we humans can pursue. But entering the present moment is much easier said than done.
Why? Because it’s hard. Really hard. Why is it so hard? Because our minds, aka our egoic selves, constantly wrest our attention away from the present and into Thoughtlandia.
Eckhart’s solution to this conundrum offers two options for entering the moment: Going outside or inside.
Looking out the window
Outside means using our sense perceptions. For example, if you’re driving through brutal traffic, feeling uptight and…
My last article explained why we humans think so many useless, involuntary thoughts that cause us so much misery. I laid the blame mostly on our obsolete brains, which aren’t much different than they were 200,000 years ago. Bottom line: We have hunter-gatherer brains that are poorly designed to handle the frenzied nature of the high-tech, busy-body world we live in.
I ended by stating that while it would take evolution a long time to correct this problem, there was some good news for humanity. Here it is.
Remember in the movie The Graduate when that boring corporate tool dad…