[Following are the Opening Words that Brian V. gave a couple Sundays ago. My thanks to him for sharing his experience and thoughts with us, and I hope that his words are helpful as we continue to explore ethical mindfulness at the Ethical Society and in our lives.]
“Over 25 years ago, shortly after we moved to St. Louis, my wife, Sharon, and I were introduced to mindfulness meditation by our good friend Trudy. I am a skeptic by inclination and training, and wary of all things religious. Trudy, too, was a skeptic, as well as an iconoclast and a cultural trickster. I liked her, I admired her spirit, and we joined her small group of meditators every Sunday night, largely because of her.
“Although not a very enthusiastic participant at first, I learned that mindfulness is not associated with a spirit world apart from, above, or beyond this world. It is, rather, a practice for escaping the habits, preoccupations and inflated concerns of our daily lives; of attending to being present, in this moment, now. The questions of God, religion, atheism, and agnosticism are rendered irrelevant. They are a residue of a culture steeped in monotheism. Mindfulness, that gentle breeze from the East, offers a means to glimpse the miraculousness of Now—without metaphysics, dogma or doctrine.
“After about a year in the group, Trudy told Sharon and I that she had begun meditation to help her cope with dying and, also, to help her live more fully. You see, she had breast cancer and didn’t have long to live. Indeed, she died only months after telling us. She wanted to be able to let go when she died, but also to not miss the precious moments of life that were left to her. Trudy has been an inspiration to us, and to me, and we have continued to meditate since her death—with life-changing consequences.
“As I consider my life, and my death, I frequently ask: ‘Have I been worthy of this one-time astonishing privilege of being alive?’ My answer is framed by Trudy’s gift: It is not whether I have been successful enough, owned enough toys, or visited enough passport-destinations. Rather, it is whether I have had the awareness to wrench moments of being from the rush of doing; whether I have had the fortitude to be here, now, rather than be drugged by the deadening comforts of habit; whether I allowed myself to be with other fellow travelers, eye to eye, with care, rather than sail past them in the night, oblivious. Sadly, I usually fail. But I am now more mindfully engaged. And for this, Trudy, I thank you!”