Alice Gets Mindful (3)

Lesson 3: Not knowing

For the past three weeks, I’ve dutifully left home every Tuesday evening with my linen School of Life-bag in hand. In it, I have: my Mindfulness course folder, a pencil for notes, and my phone (on silent). It seemed important and useful to always have the course folder with me, because who knows if or when the teacher will come and check that I’ve been doing my homework assignments. Or when she’ll give a lecture of sorts about the theory behind mindfulness and I want to take notes about it. You never know—hence the bag with all these essentials. The first two lessons, I placed my bag next to my yoga mat, the folder on top and within reach. During the third lesson, I noticed that some people had a warm scarf or extra pair of socks next to their mat, but never a bag with their folder showing.

Even though the others didn’t exactly flaunt their folders for all to see, I wasn’t the only one who came to the lessons with the same expectations. At the end of the third night, a fellow student asked the question, “Why is there so little theory discussed at the meetings?” She had expected that we would cover a theme from the course folder every week and do subsequent exercises relevant to it. Approving nods from several students (me included) ensued. The teacher explained that she could fill the entire evenings with theoretical information about mindfulness, but that the aim of this eight-week MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course is to just practice. To experience. We can read a chapter from our course folder at home every week, but in the class, it’s mainly about ‘doing’. Practicing with various forms of attention—meditation and yoga—and then discussing our experiences. Not about forcing knowledge down our throats and holding lecture after lecture after lecture.

While the teacher was telling us this, I remembered something I heard while practicing the sitting meditation earlier that week. The narrator of the exercise asked: What sounds do you hear? What thoughts come to your mind? What feelings do you have? And be aware that you do not know what sounds, thoughts and feelings will come hereafter. Mindfulness is ‘not knowing’. This simple insight hit me: In the end, life is not knowing what will happen next. I think that accepting this is the hardest thing there is. And that is exactly why it is so good that I am doing this course. I need to leave my thoughts behind; just let things happens. Which is why I’ll be leaving my course folder at home next week.

Alice is the Managing Editor of Flow International and the Flow Specials.