The road to nothingness: Another excerpt from Riding Shotgun and my continuing appeal for support
This piece was first published on the Riding Shotgun blog in 2013. It is republished here as part of my effort to raise the necessary funds to publish Riding Shotgun the book.
At the time of writing the notion of nothingness was a mystery to me. It still is.
The road to nothingness is cratered with potholes, surrounded by flashing neon lights and sparkly roadside attractions, fast-food joints, and amusement parks; the hurdy-gurdy man is playing in the back seat while Led Zeppelin screams from the car stereo at volume 10.
Apart from that, my all-day mindfulness meditation course was pretty much perfect.
On January 8, 2013 I embarked on a journey to oblivion. Under the guidance of Dr. Stèphane Treyvaud , I am attempting to embrace the principles and practices of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Kate undertook this study in 2012 and continues both the study and practice today. It has wrought profound change in her and in witnessing the incredible growth she experienced, it struck me that we would increase the harmony in our lives if I too attempted to incorporate mindfulness in my day-to-day activities.
What I have learned so far is this - Katie is even more remarkable than I thought!
What on the surface appears so simple - reduce stress in one’s life by embracing the notion of transparency, transcendence, curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love - is tremendously difficult.
Treyvaud and the modern pioneer of MBSR, John Kabat-Zinn, suggest that there are seven attitudinal foundations of mindfulness.
- Non-judging: being an impartial witness to your own experience.
- Patience: understanding and accepting that things must unfold in their own time.
- Beginner’s mind: opening to the richness of the present-moment experience.
- Trust: it is far better to trust in your own intuitions and your own authority.
- Non-striving: meditation is a non-doing; it has no goal other than for you to be yourself.
- Acceptance: means seeing things as they actually are in the present; accept yourself as you are.
- Letting go: the best way to let go is to stop wanting things to be different than what they are.
While tempted to address many of these items, it is the last that is particularly relevant in this context.
Since Kate’s diagnosis, I have heartily wished that I could change spots with her. That I could unburden her from the fear, the surgeries, the chemo, the radiation, the pills, the innumerable side effects, the uncertainty, the anger, the madness, the bitterness, the rage, the guilt, the disappointment, the loneliness, the sickness, the lingering lassitude, and the unknowing.
We both have to stop wanting things to be different than they are.
This is a key and difficult lesson for those of us riding shotgun.
I am also learning through mindfulness that the entire notion of hard-wired behaviour and attitude is simply not real. We humans are NOT hard-wired beings. There is plenty of quantitative and qualitative research to prove this point. We have the ability to unleash the remarkable capacity of our brains by altering how we enter life each day. For additional insight I recommend you watch this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf6Q0G1iHBI. In it, Philippe Goldin, a clinical researcher into neuroscience, provides insight into the cognitive neuroscience of meditation. Even better, he does so in a fashion that everyone can understand and to which they can relate.
My fellow Facing Cancer blogger, Bumpyboobs, in her post of February 22, 2013 (http://www.facingcancer.ca/bumpyboobs/2013/02/22/how-do-you-stop-worrying/) wrote about how she is attempting to manage her worries. She finds house cleaning helpful - among other things.
What Catherine is alluding to is that if we let life’s insidious and unfair moments drive our lives, we are giving up - we are embracing a notion of victimhood that serves no one.
These studies in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and applying them to daily life are immensely difficult and for someone with a profoundly active problem-solving brain, they pose what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.
BUT - every once in a while - I get it. I am able to fully recognize that thoughts are not facts. That amongst all the pebbles on the beach there is one that has particular resonance. That I can accept where I am today and seize the opportunity to live - today!
Let the learning continue and perhaps there will be fewer potholes on the journey.
If you're willing and able, any support - either financial through a pledge or by sharing with your followers - is very much appreciated.
2016 Don Kerr. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.