Everything We Do Matters
Weekly Column By Sharon Salzberg for On Being
Originally Published May 24, 2015
Last July I had the chance to be on the Katie Couric show in an episode where she was exploring mindfulness. The most powerful moment for me actually came after my part was over, and I was sitting in the front row of the audience.
Up on the stage were JG Laurochette and Timothy Scott Jr (known as JusTme) from the Mindful Life Project in Richmond, California. JG talked about beginning the nonprofit organization to teach mindfulness, yoga, and hip hop/performing arts in his third grade classroom because so many of the kids had experienced some significant trauma.
He had gone through a time of anxiety and depression at feeling unable to help them, then realized that mindfulness was helping him so he thought he’d try it with them as well. JusTme gave us a rendition of a hip hop song with lyrics transformed to be positive instead of negative.
Then the audience’s attention turned to a little eight-year-old boy named Malik. He was sitting right next to me in the front row of the studio audience with his Mom sitting just on his other side. First Katie Couric talked to his Mom. She talked about her oldest son being killed in 2012, and Malik being devastated by losing his brother.
“He really struggled, couldn’t manage his grief, couldn’t manage his anger.”
Katie Couric then asked Malik what mindfulness had done for him. To paraphrase his reply:
It helped me pay attention to the present moment, grab my anger, and keep it inside me for a while without acting on it. It helped me deal with my grief. It helped me have fun again.
Wow. It was just about the most beautiful description of the benefits of mindfulness I’d ever heard. To come into the present moment, to have a way to deal with difficult feelings in ravaging circumstances — it was perfect. (I should say that by the time I was sitting next to Malik in the audience I had been made up a total of four times for the cameras. Hearing him, I was so moved I just started crying. Sitting there, I started thinking,” I must have black tracks running all the way down my face!” But it didn’t matter.)
I had the most extraordinary sense of lineage listening to Malik, one of the strongest understandings I’ve ever had about it at any time.
I felt the presence of my own teachers from Burma and India and Tibet, teachers who had so generously and skillfully offered mindfulness instruction to this ragged band of Westerners who showed up on their doorsteps in the sixties and seventies. I had the sense of those instructions and teachings passing right through me and through the many seekers of my generation, often members of that ragged band, as though we were each transparent. I felt a living, vital, flowing energy go right through us, to fill people like JG and JusTme, trying to help make this a better world. And then onto Malik, in his awful grief, offering him another way.
It was an inexpressibly beautiful moment, a moment of great peace.
It all matters, everything we do. We don’t know where the ripple effects will end up or when. When I looked at Malik, “Look at that,” I thought, “We do the same practice. We have a real connection.”
About On Being with Krista Tippett
On Being is a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, a Webby Award-winning website and online exploration, a publisher and public event convener. On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? On Being airs on more than 330 public radio stations across the U.S., distributed by American Public Media. The podcast reaches a global audience via SoundCloud. Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times bestselling author. In 2014, she received the National Humanities Medal at the White House for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of all faiths, no faith, and every background to join the conversation.”
Photo by Mindful Life