Some Thoughts on Mindfulness

Excerpt from a chapter on Mindfulness from Creativity Unzipped: Why Your Thoughts Matter

My mother died recently, and in her belongings I found a poem written by my father in 1943. It was published in the Black River Journal, in response to a letter to the editor criticizing farm boys for not joining the war effort. As it turned out, my father tried to enlist but was rejected because he was a farmer and the country needed the fruits of his labor. Where there was once his life, his desire to wear a uniform, his willingness to fight, there is now this form, these lines, the spirit of him still breathing.

These are his hand-written words, still alive:

In answer to: Win the War 1943

I read your letter with much concern
And then decided that it was my turn
To explain to you and others as well
The importance of farm boys--all in a shell.

In my opinion, it was your thought
That some of the farm boys are easily bought.
Now I don't think you know the way we feel
And that's just what I'm about to reveal.

It wasn't our choice to do as we please
Or didn't you ever hear of the word "freeze."
I know of hundreds who tried to enlist
But the draft board had orders and had to resist.

I don't think that you can mention a one
That isn't willing to shoulder a gun
What would you do if we all did this?
Run the farms by hit and miss.

You mentioned the cow, as a good place to hide
But I'll inform you, that we still have pride
You think of a farm as just a cow;
That's just the half of it, I'll tell you right now.

It all looks simple to folks like you
But you've still got to eat, to see the war through.
Now I don't pretend to be a famed poet
But just a farm boy, and I want you to know it.

My father did not have a mindfulness practice that I know of, but he favored silence over everything. On our long rides through the country, he rarely spoke. We never played music in the house when he was there. When he did his chores, cleaned the gutters, spread the hay, milked the cows, he was alone with his thoughts, and happy. If he didn't have something important to say, he said nothing.

And when he did speak, it mattered, like this poem matters. His words were clean, clear, concise. They revealed his feelings, but most subtly. My mother said it broke his heart that he couldn't enlist, but you can't see that in the poem. You see acceptance and resolve, but not his pain. He somehow mastered that.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, writes:

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.

That's what my father did. He stood up and showed his soul.