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Mindfulness on the Farm

Guest post by Bill Conover, Director, Spiritual Life Program at Beloit College and Mindfulness Workshop instructor

A cool summer sunset illuminating tower clouds over Angelic Organics fields. Thousands of fireflies dancing upward from the crops, sparks lifting off from a greenish fire. The steady diesel thrum and cough of a parked refrigerator truck, loaded with veggies bound for Chicagoland the next morning.

And out in the middle of that scene, at the end of their eighth and final weekly session in the Learning Center's Mindfulness Workshop, a small group of people practicing mindfulness, opening to it all ... in touch with the sensations coming up in our own bodies, too, and aware of the varied thoughts and emotions playing through our minds.

We'd spent the summer learning the simple yet challenging art of mindfulness, which is simply to be present to our lives as they unfold.

Usually we humans are lost in thought. Fantasizing or fretting about what lies ahead, we push through our days, obsessing about the things we crave, pushing away the ones we can't stand. We chew over and over events from the past, sort of like the AOLC's goats ruminate and regurgitate their hay all day long! These habits lie at the root of much stress and struggle.

With mindfulness, we learn to notice these patterns over and over, and patiently drop them. We practice coming home to just this moment ... reinhabiting our bodies with wakeful care ... attending to our thoughts with good-natured skepticism and our emotions with gentle friendliness.

The farm is a fantastic setting for a mindfulness workshop. The animals, fields, trees, skies and people create a rich container in which to explore in a direct way how this life actually feels. No, it's not always pleasant. There are plenty of unpleasant smells on a farm, unpredictable conditions and backbreaking work that sometimes yields not very much. It's the same in our lives:  plenty of change, struggle and losses to deal with. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading voice in the mindfulness movement, calls this "the full catastrophe," this uncontainable, wild up and down journey through life.

Don't we want to notice every moment of it? Don't we want to wake up and actually live the whole dang thing? That's mindfulness on the farm.

I hope you'll join us the next time we offer the workshop.