Urban Mindfulness--The Book!


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    The Way Things Are Now: A Mindful Lunch in Queens

    By Irene Javors, LMHC

    Recently, I had lunch with a friend in my neighborhood. We met at a neighborhood place that still makes homemade mashed potatoes and meat loaf soaked in gravy. Forget about carb awareness or calorie counting. This is burgers, chicken wings, french fries and souvlaki land. Everyone knows everyone and the waitstaff has been there for years.

    Anyway, on this given Sunday the subject of our conversation was the economy. My friend will be 70 in a few weeks, retired and living on social security and a small pension. She is worried about how she is going to be able to make ends meet if her stocks fall any lower. We talked about the bizarre nature of finances today. People are losing their jobs yet prices on just about everything--health care,property taxes, rents, utilities, groceries--aren't budging. Toilet paper costs sixty five cents and the price of cereal is over five dollars. My friend kept shaking her head and saying, “Nothing makes any sense."

    She related how someone who lives in her building just got let go from his job of twenty eight years. He's 52 and he has no idea how he is going to find work. He knows that he will have to settle for a paycut and he wonders what this will mean in terms of continuing to have health insurance. In the co-op where I live, someone on the second floor was unable to pay mortgage and maintenance and had to go into foreclosure.

    By my third cup of coffee, I thought to myself,”How do I maintain a mindful approach to all that is going on?” I asked my friend how she was getting through these uncertain times. She looked me in the eye and said, "We gotta help each other." A light turned on in my brain. Right, we need to get more mindful of each other; be present in ways that are about sharing and caring for one another. My mother used to tell stories about how as a child during the depression, her family was thrown out of their apartment because they couldn't pay the rent. Neighbors who had some money would join together and throw a “rent party” for her family and move them back in by the evening.

    Yes, that was a different time and place, but the idea is something that we can learn from: we are not isolated entities, living separate disconnected lives. If there is one central precept of mindfulness practice, it is that we are inter-connected. We need to remember all that connects us and out of that awareness, put into practice a way of living that is mindful of what brings us together.

    Our lunch lasted a luxurious 2 hours. No one rushed us out. When we left, the staff waved good-bye to us. We went out into a cold, blustery day, mindful that these hard times can be made a great deal easier through caring and friendship.