Updated: Aug 17, 2021
By Nancy Lasseter
Following my #meditation, I walked over to the Plaza of the America’s to have a Krishna lunch. Such a treat. I had my first Krishna lunch some time in the early 70’s when I was an undergrad at UF. I can remember eating my lunch on the lawn, relaxing around other students, hearing the soft chants of “Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna” in the background. The plaza was the happening place; the central outdoor headquarters for all that was meaningful to we students. Peaceful sit-ins, anti-war protests and civil rights protests began right there. We were a very large, united community. We all seemed to be interested in the same things: equal rights for all, the end of all wars, the uniting of all people on this planet as one family. We believed it was all possible. We felt strong, powerful, and hopeful. We believed that we could and would change the world for the better.
When I stood in line yesterday for my Krishna lunch, one of the kind servers noticed my t-shirt. “#UF #Mindfulness, what a great idea! I think we all should be mindful and kind to one another, do you teach this?” I smiled and said yes, I teach mindfulness courses to students, faculty and the community and that I wholeheartedly agreed that we all could benefit from mindfulness practices.
Finding a place to sit, I began eating my rice and veggies lunch. Yum. I hadn’t seen a young man sit down next to me. He had noticed my t-shirt too. “Excuse me, ma’am, you are a teacher of meditation?” Yes, I said. He went on “I have tried to meditate a number of times and I cannot control my thoughts. It has gotten worse. The last three months I am having trouble concentrating on my studies. I feel bad that I have lost some of my ambition.” This began a 45-minute conversation about his feelings since moving to the US from a foreign country less than one year ago. He spoke about heartache, isolation, fear, disappointment with oneself, difficulties in adjusting to a new culture, financial pressures, the multiple distractions of everyday life and the lack of focus in the thinking mind. Over the course of our conversation, I shared the following mindfulness teachings passed down to me over the years. I thought that I might share these teachings here with you as well.
We all have very b
We can learn a great deal from these observations. We can learn to be kind to ourselves, to let go of judgment when we notice our sadness, frustration, fear or disappointment coming up. We are all human. We all share these emotions. They do not go away when we meditate. With practice we get better at taking care of our natural feelings that arise by giving them kind attention and not just getting lost in stories about them. These stories can create more thoughts and stronger reactions and before we know it we are stuck. (He agreed, yes he felt stuck.) With mindfulness meditation, we can notice our breath and begin to see that these thoughts are normal and that these feelings will pass. We learn to watch the thinking mind and to choose not to believe our thoughts. If the mind says “You’ll never make it if you keep studying like this, you’re going to fail and disappoint your family”, we learn to recognize the fear and worry, we hear the story we created, we know that the mind is just making this up. The mind does not have evidence that proves that this is true. This is just the worrying mind, thinking it can help us by ruminating incessantly about things.
Yesterday on the plaza I said to my young friend, “You will understand better that you are okay just the way you are, that there is nothing wrong with you. You are adjusting to many changes in your life. We talked about his taking some time to share with a friend and to listen inside to his feelings of hurt and fear of the future, to resolve to return to his studies. I told him that I predicted that his ambition will return as he cultivates greater awareness and kindness to himself for having these feelings and thoughts. Awareness itself is healing. I repeated an old Chinese saying “Name the curse and the dragon disappears.” Just identifying an emotion helps us to let go of our grip around it. It has the chance then to leave, like a long exhalation that leaves our body feeling much less tense. He began to look more relaxed; encouraged. I told him about the local UF Meditation club and the UF Mindfulness webpage and Facebook page. He thanked me and we said goodbye.
Shortly before we got up to leave, a young man approached. “Sorry, I can see that you are in conversation but I couldn’t help but see your UF Mindfulness t-shirt…Can I just tell you about this new documentary I have created called Connection?”
Like many of us, there are days when I wonder if I’ve chosen the right clothes for the occasion and the weather. Today I had no doubt. The #UF Mindfulness t-shirt was just right for this day. I walked away from the plaza feeling its power today. We are all strong and powerful. We can change the world, maybe just by starting with ourselves and working out from there…I remembered the old compassion meditation “May I be safe and protected, may I be strong and healthy, may I be truly happy, may I live my life with ease…that finishes with “May all beings everywhere be safe, strong and healthy, truly happy and live their lives with ease.”
Yes, the Plaza of the America’s has changed over the years. Yet it remains a place of nature and beauty, a quiet place for the sharing of ideas, for eating nutritious food, for meditation, hammock resting and connecting with new and old friends
Nancy Lasseter, Ed.S., LMHC. Wellness Educator UF Mindfulness Team