In previous posts we’ve discussed how to work with the breath as an anchor for taming the mind, bringing our attention into the present, and maintaining an attention of moment-to-moment awareness. We’ve also covered how to work with thoughts, sensations, emotions, and…even sleepiness!!
When caring for others, in this case, at the bedside, as a healthcare professional, we can use all of the methods that we’ve learned to ground out attention in the moment, for those we care for.
Minding the bedside aware and compassionately comes from realizing the changing nature of our thoughts and from turning and returning the mind inward, transforming the stormy arisings of thoughts, emotions, and feelings and recognizing them to be impermanent phenomena like passing clouds in the sky.
Minding the bedside comes from realizing that whatever thoughts and emotions may be stirred up while doing our job are simply the result of our past experiences and attitudes and have very little to do with the present moment. And it’s the same for our patients too!
The nature of clouds is to arrive, float within the sky for a while, and then leave. The nature of the sky is to remain spacious, open, and present, regardless of whether a storm cloud or rainbow appears in front of it. To paraphrase a saying, the sky is neither perturbed when clouds pass through it, nor particularly flattered when a rainbow appears.
In the very same way, when observed mindfully with awareness, our thoughts, whether “good” or “bad,” will simply pass through our mind and then dissipate and disappear…if allowed to. This is a very important point, and one that we need to return to frequently; if we observe our thoughts just as the sky “observes” the phenomena passing before it, our minds will gradually become more spacious, reflecting clarity. But that’s not what we usually do. Usually, we chase after thoughts with more thoughts, thinking them to be real.
Remembering this point is vital and takes time. In the book The Joy of Living, author Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche writes, “Just as space isn’t defined by the objects that move through it, awareness isn’t defined by the thoughts, emotions, and so on that it apprehends. Awareness like space, simply is.”[i]Reflect on this metaphor for a moment: awareness, like space, simply is. Objects come into a particular space, either passing through it or occupying it briefly and temporarily, and then are gone. So too, our mind doesn’t have to be defined by what arises within it; thoughts, ideas, impressions can all be allowed to pass through our mind without our grasping on to them.
Objects come into a particular space, either passing through it or occupying it briefly and temporarily, and then are gone. So too, our mind doesn’t have to be defined by what arises within it; thoughts, ideas, impressions can all be allowed to pass through our mind without our grasping on to them. Another useful metaphor for the dynamics of thoughts arising within the mind is that of a train station. Trains pass through the station, yet the station is not the trains; it is a station for the trains. They arrive, stay a while, and then depart.
Think about this the next time that you’re at the bedside, or in traffic, or with your family, or with yourself. Watch the thoughts, cloud-like in nature, as they arrive, remain, and then depart. Are they any more substantial than the clouds?
Share your comments. Let me and others know what situations you find yourself in when minding the bedside, or attending to the needs of another, you find yourself you find that you’re able to return to the moment . And, as always, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to see additional content or other discussions on this site.
For more information on how to meditate, exercises in working with the breath, and other nifty stuff, please see the Related Posts below. Also, don’t forget to download the free ebook, Can Meditation Change the Way that You View Your World?, for help with getting started in you meditation practice.
Also, stay tuned for a new ebook coming soon; How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation.
NEW – this site has a new page, Meditation Resources, where you can find articles, MP3 tracks for downloading, and videos on the subject of meditation.