I’d like to tell a story about the web. No, I don’t mean the worldwide web or the Internet. I’m talking about a different kind of web.
I went to a seminar several years ago about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) with Jon Kabat-Zinn. The experience involved not only learning about MBSR, but doing various types of meditation including sitting meditation, body awareness (called the body scan) and walking meditation like at a retreat. I had many lovely little epiphanies during the course of all these activities. Spending a week with 200 other folks intensely interested in mindfulness can in itself be an enlightening experience. It was a cauldron of swirling emotion and intellect ranging from Buddhist thought and practice to clinical studies of mindfulness involving fMRI (functional MRI). All in all, it was a fascinating and stimulating time.
One moment stands out as particularly interesting to me. We (all 200 of us) were out in a grassy field next to the hall where the seminar was being held. This area was at least as large as a football field. Two hundred people were distributed throughout the space, each having staked out a little zone where they could practice walking meditation. This involved walking perhaps ten paces forward and then turning and walking ten paces back. This is all done with mindful awareness of the movement of walking. The idea is to be in the moment concentrating purely on the motion of your body. The pace is your own—some people move at a turtle slow pace, and others at a faster clip. It is done silently. We must have been quite the sight—two hundred zoned-out-appearing people walking back and forth at all different speeds with no seeming destination. Well, I was doing my own thing near one end of the field, slowly measuring my steps, stopping at the end of my line to pause, close my eyes and take a deep breath before turning to walk in the other direction. I opened my eyes after pausing and saw the most odd but lovely sight. It looked like a huge haphazard web of connections between each and every person. It only lasted moments—actually dissipating when I blinked. Of course I stood there wondering what I had just seen and if I was hallucinating. Then I continued on my walk.
Who knows if what I briefly saw was just a creation of my imaginative mind or a sudden subtle visualizing of something usually not seeable. Who cares. To me it is significant at least in its symbolism. In reality I do believe this interconnection does exist in some type of way. We all share a common humanity of worries, hopes, emotions, fears, joys and sorrows. Thich Nhat Hanh likes to call this Interbeing—not only are we connected, but everything is connected. In Buddhism and Hinduism, this cosmic interrelatedness is known as Indra’s Net, which is seeded with jewels, each reflecting and showing the reflection of the other jewels. In each facet of each jewel is seen not only each other jewel, but the net as a whole. This is not only a visually beautiful analogy, but consistent with the concept that nothing exists on its own. Everything is interdependent. Every thing is part of the whole, and the whole is part of every thing.
Not a bad insight into life for a week spent with my 200 new friends.
Dr. Heather's musings about medicine, mindfulness and life.
Heather Krantz, M.D.
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