“As long as you’re breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong.” Jon Kabat-Zinn delivered the first Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course in an American hospital in 1979. It was originally designed to catch people falling through the cracks of the healthcare service, a clinic in the form of a course, helping people with all manner of conditions. It gave patients hope and empowerment, and treated them as people, not diagnoses or body parts, re-establishing the common humanity that can easily be lost within healthcare. Jon and his colleagues successfully brought meditation into medicine, an idea that is continuing to develop with life changing results. Since then, similar eight week mindfulness courses have spread around the world, not limited to healthcare. 145 MPs have completed an MBSR course; perhaps the wisdom will start filtrating Parliament? “Human beings are technologically phenomenal. Why can’t we take care of people? Why can’t we realise what the causes of suffering may be before we create the catastrophes, and address them?”Jon said. “Much of our diet is the news and there seems to be fantastic compassion after events, but zero wisdom beforehand.” He suggested localised greed, hatred and delusion are often motivators, which we need to move beyond if we are to change. “How do you know if you’re doing harm unless you’re awake, you’re mindful, you’re heartful?”
“Maybe there should be a little less talk about mindfulness and a little more mindfulness,” he said, touching upon the fact that the term is often scattered around like confetti, deemed as a ‘hot topic’ and buzz word, without always being demonstrated in action. Perhaps that’s where the hope lies. We are all whole, the true meaning of ‘health’, whatever suffering we may be carrying. We all have the capacity to be awake. We are all invited to live fully, to deepen our awareness and find security, regardless of internal or external turbulence. Drop in. Notice. Pay attention. “The real meditation practice comes from life itself.”
Jon left us with a poem he often uses in his teaching, ‘Love after Love’ by Derek Walcott –
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
It was an incredibly inspiring evening, rich in thought provoking ideas to contemplate and explore. When my friend Chrissie and I left, we sat quietly, simply wanting to absorb what we had just experienced. You can watch the talk for yourself –