On my desk are two books that have “Mindful” in the titles: “Mindful Meandering” by Laura Lee Fritz. It’s a workbook containing 132 original continuous-line quilting designs. The second book is “Mindful Reflections – Patterns of Hope” by Antoineta Edwards. It is a journal for reflection, growth and relaxation. Interestingly, both use quilt patterns and mindfulness concepts. A copy of the May issue of LA YOGA is close by. Inside is an article on a “Call for Education Around Mindful Communication”, by Adam Avin, a 14-year old who founded the Wuf Shanti Program. The theme of mindfulness abounds.
Antoineta attends my yoga classes at the library. She got interested in the classes because I teach mindfulness. She wrote a dedication in the journal I purchased, “Analyn, thank you for inspiring us to be mindful in our lives…”
After completing the first mindful exercise from her book I felt a sense of accomplishment without really doing anything. I followed the steps of reflecting on the quote, writing down what came to me, then followed with two writing exercises on what I like about Analyn and what I am grateful for. (It’s key in the exercise to write “I like <your name>”). The last step is to color in the quilt pattern. Optional is a final step to write an afterthought, like a celebratory thought.
Perhaps a lot is being accomplished in a state of doing nothing – in that mindful stillness. In allowing a pen in hand to meander and to color I achieved a state of relaxation and surrender – a natural state of equilibrium.
Laura Lee Fritz’ book is designed for quilt makers to use the 44+ meandering patterns. “Meandering” is a terminology in quilting to describe lines that do not intersect other lines. She notes at the end, “A word about art… Throughout history, quilts have represented people’s lives, often expressing a love of story as well as a love of color. It is sufficient to practice your craft in an expressive way, and follow the path of just ‘doing it’. You will begin to see the world with a greater attention to what it truly looks and feels like, and those observations will appear in your work. Now you are an artist.”
Meanwhile, Adam Avin says “As a 14-year old, I’m striving to live my life to the fullest. But it’s hard when…” and he lists the distractions of the discouraging news on the TV about danger and shootings. What can we do? he asks. “I think we can look at education.” Wuf Shanti program is a team that visits schools and children’s hospitals to teach how to practice yoga, meditation and positive thinking. “Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can improve the healing process, help us handle stress and have better interaction with others.”
A beginning exercise of mindfulness is to observe the breath. Tuning the attention to the breath, the seer can also watch how the mind wanders away from observing the breath. The seer reminds the mind to watch the breath. It is a continuous observation of the flow of the breath and the flow of the mind. In doing this exercise the practitioner begins to understand the nature of the mind – how the mind can move from one thought to another and another so easily like a gamboling goat on the side of a mountain.
What is the connection between the mindful books, the LA Yoga article and mindfulness exercise on the breath? I summarize it to a conversation I had with Alex, the owner of a motorcycle maintenance and repair shop on Pico Blvd. He’s a racer and also a mechanic, the kind of mechanic any motorcyclist would want to go to when you’re cruising and zooming along on two tires. Alex knows and has the feel for motorcycles and the rider. I venture to identify Alex as a mindful person. He’s the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance. He’s the observer and the doer.
He specializes in motorcycling and as a seasoned racer, mechanic, entrepreneur and mentor – his education is a process that can be applied to other areas in life. Mindfulness is a process of revelation; and in peeling off layers to reveal the true nature of things there is also an accumulation of more light – an illumination that brings about clarity and a sense of peace. His process of accumulating a body of knowledge and work from years on the track, the shop, running a business and being an artist can be transposed to the “human condition”. The “human condition” is what is.
We came to the conclusion in our conversation over a bottle of Pacifica when the shop work had wound down, and my Suzuki was ready to go. The bike was scheduled for a fork job. The seals had been worn and rust had started to corrode the forks. He gave the bike extra TLC: he lowered the seat so that I don’t have to be on tippy toes; fixed a slow leak on the back tire, oiled the kick stand. I noticed he also polished my mirrors – a finishing touch like putting the sprig of mint on a strawberry parfait.
We talked about the education of police officers who are trained to shoot a person posing a threat. The example was a mentally imbalanced sixty-year old woman who is wielding a knife. If she moves to threaten a police officer then the officer is trained to shoot her once she’s within a defined perimeter – say 16 feet. It is baffling why the officer is not trained to contain the situation, rather than pull the trigger as the first line of defense. The officer could call for backups or at worst shoot to disarm the woman (say aim at the feet), rather than aim to kill. Then upon containment of the situation call on an expert to deal appropriately with the hysteria of the woman, and perhaps begin to understand the root cause of the problem instead of shutting off the possibilities of beginning to understand why she’s mentally imbalanced and carrying a knife.
“The main purpose of education should be to enable us, as John Dewey said, to come into the possession of all our powers, to help us grow as human beings, and to locate our potentialities so that we can better develop them” – interview with Norman Cousins from November/December 1984 posted on Mother Earth News.
A practice on mindfulness is a path that leads to seeing the possibilities and the potentialities within an individual. As an example, to control your breath as means to direct and extend the prana (life force) within you has a direct effect on the mind and anatomically the brain that secretes hormones that brings a sense of calmness and even euphoria. In a state of equanimity we can make better choices. Mindfulness is a practice. It is not medicine. It is exercising your free will to choose to attend and to be present to regularly practice mindfulness. There are other methods of practicing mindfulness and it need not be in a yoga studio.
“What is the eternal and ultimate problem of a free society? It is the problem of the individual who thinks that one man cannot possibly make a difference in the destiny of that society.” – Norman Cousins from his book “Human Options”.
Alex White is practicing mindfulness just being human and doing his work of calling. His mindful practice resolves to showing compassion to a fellow rider and being a steward of human kindness.
I express a deep gratitude to Alex who has helped me deal with all of the motorcycle work and dealing with the situation of Bruno’s fatal accident on his bike. Alex is a solution to the problem of a free society. He made a positive difference in my life and that will have domino effect that I can make a positive effect on others too.
When you’re seeking motorcycle advice, repair, maintenance, performance tuning and purchases of bikes and accessories go to MPS – Motorcycle Performance Services, located at 4150 W Pico Blvd 90019. Phone number: 323-939-2370. You’ll find Alex there and his sweet and friendly staff including the two gorgeous German Shepherds.