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Every Day--Mindfulness

Carol Adrienne, Ph.D.
September 2009

“Be here now”

    Ram Dass

These three simple words of advice from author and spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, connect us to the attentive and aware state we call mindfulness.  When we are mindful, we are aware of our body, our feelings, and our actions in the present moment.  Buddhism teaches that mindfulness is the path to freedom, wisdom, and enlightenment.  

Try being mindful now.  Where are you sitting?  How does your seat feel?  Is any part of your body straining, tired, or in need of a small adjustment?  If so, bring your attention to that place.  Breathe into it and allow the body to adjust itself in order to feel a bit more relaxed.  Mindfulness opens channels for creativity, compassion, joy, and love.

I tend to become more mindful when I’m scared.  For example, I was thinking of the first time I bathed my infant daughter, Sigrid, in 1964.  I had no experience with slippery, wailing, little red bodies.  I laid out a towel next to the sink.  I cleaned the sink carefully, and began to fill it with just-right warm water.  Checked again with the other hand just to be sure my skin on the first hand hadn’t acclimated and the water really was too hot.  Folded the wash cloth.  Unfolded the wash cloth for easier access.  Laid out a diaper and diaper pins next to the towel.  Finally, I opened the little holes in the lid on the bath powder.  Ready. 

Gently cradling her melon-sized head and squirmy little wrinkled feet, I held my breath without realizing it.  She weighed only slightly more than five pounds, having arrived three weeks early, and been in the hospital for a week.  Now, the time had come for her first bath.  Gently the warm water flowed over her bottom, over her arms, her eyes opening wider, breath quiet.

Lesson of the Three-inch Clearance

One evening not long ago, we had a family get- together at my house. Over dinner, my grown son, Gunther Rohrer, started telling us about an incident that had happened to him a couple of days before. Hearing it, I couldn’t help being anxious for his safety, yet laughing at the same time.  Each of the experiences in his story is a good example of everyday mindfulness.  I’ll let him tell it in his own words.

“I was checking out my compost pile in the backyard last week.  I had so much stuff in the box that I was afraid the natural bacterial breakdown wouldn’t be fast enough.  I used to have a worm box in San Francisco, and so I decided to get some worms.

About an hour later, I was listening to the local college radio, KALX, and an advertisement from came on. I checked out their Web site, and put in an order for a Vermi Start-up Kit. Within thirty minutes, I received a response from Mickey at BayWorms that I had been put on the waiting list for a Vermi Start-up Kit.

An hour later I received an email saying that my worm kit was ready!  Wow, fast service.  I could pick it up next Tuesday.  They said they’d be there around lunch-time. 

On Tuesday I roped a co-worker, who commutes to work by bike, to join me for a trip, from where we work in Emeryville, to the community garden in Alameda, where BayWorms is located.

We mapped out our ride and set off on Mandela Parkway through West Oakland towards China town and….the Posey Tube! [Alameda is on an island near Oakland, California.]

After scratching our heads for ten minutes, we finally found the bicycle entrance into the hole known as the Tube. Bicycles have to travel along a raised walkway about thirty inches wide, with a curved tile wall on one side and fifty-mile-an-hour traffic on the other.  On my Xtracycle, the width of the handle bars leaves about three inches of clearance on either side.

Twenty yards into the Tube, my heart was in my throat.  Over the traffic noise, I yelled back at my co-worker, Chris, not daring to shift around to look at him. ‘Are you cool with this?’  Chris said, ‘Let’s do it.’

I took one big breath, tried to hold it, and continued into the depths.  At this point in the Tube, you can’t see the other end.  You’re just driving forward on faith that there will be an end--that you won’t choke on the fumes, and that you won’t flip over into the on-coming traffic. 

Fortunately, we didn’t encounter anybody coming in the opposite direction.  Emerging from the Tube into a no-man’s strip of earth between the lanes entering the Tube, we started winding our way through the main streets of Alameda toward the garden.

After two miles of pedaling, we turned into the neighborhood that hosts the community garden.  At this point I looked over at Chris, and said, ‘If the marketing material for this ride wasn’t perfectly clear, let me tell you right now, that our final destination is a low-income housing project.’

After a detour into the Plowshares for Swords Community Garden (which is not where BayWorms is located), we arrived at the Alameda Point Community Garden.  Much to our chagrin, we saw no one there.  Chris asked if I had told them I was coming, and I said, ‘Yes! Mickey promised me he’d be here.’ 

I yelled out, ‘Hello.’  Like mushrooms, two people popped their heads up between the garden rows.  One was Mickey.  He looked like an aboriginal Swami Muktananda, with wild hair and blue eyes.  The other person, Debra, was a twenty-something six-foot tall grad student in jeans and a chambray work shirt, chestnut hair down to her shoulders.

After introducing ourselves, Mickey assembled my Vermi Start-up Kit—which was four handfuls of worms and leaves hefted into two used Target bags.   Chris was as quiet as a fly on the wall during this exchange. 

I told Mickey that we had ridden our bikes through the Tube.   ‘Oh, man,’ he said, ‘Don’t take the Tube.  I did that once.  I thought my heart would stop!’  I said, ‘Damn, Mickey, that happened to me, too!’  He said, ‘Put your bike on the bus rack and take the bus back through the Tube.’  I thanked him for his advice, and paid him for the worms.  Chris and I headed back.

When we got to the Tube, the AC Transit bus that goes through the tunnel pulled up.  I asked Chris, ‘Want to take the bus?’  Looking straight ahead, head down, he said, ‘Let’s do this thing.’ 

This time Chris went first. He barreled through so fast, he disappeared into the darkness of the Tube. I lurched behind him, the heavy worm load unbalancing my bike on the right side, adding to my terror.

We finally emerged back into Oakland’s China Town.  Before going back to work, we had a taco at a taco truck near our company, and felt lucky to be alive. 

That night I built a worm box out of an old Ikea toy chest. I reached into the regular compost bin to grab some vegetables I’d thrown in two days before so the worms wouldn’t go hungry.  Much to my surprise the vegetables in my compost were already completely broken down.  I’m still glad I got the worms, though.”

It’s through mindfulness that we listen to intuition, that we learn what’s needed next. It’s through mindfulness that we connect to ourselves and others.

On Sunday, my partner, Robert, and I went for dinner at Kirin, a very good Chinese restaurant on Solano Avenue in Berkeley near where we live.  We were seated next to the window looking into the kitchen.  Neither of us could stop watching the four chefs, busboys, and waiters perform their duties during the busy dinner hour.  It was a ballet of mindfulness.  Hot flashing fire flaring up against metal back splashes.  Arms wielding wok after wok--shake, shake, shake. Chef turning expertly, filling bowls with perfect mountains of glistening vegetables. Next order.

Happy, Mindful September

Carol Adrienne
Carol Adrienne, Ph.D. is an intuitive counselor and life coach who has helped thousands of people work through doubt, procrastination, and obstacles to create the life they want to live.
Her books include, The Purpose of Your Life, and When Life Changes, Or you Wish it Would. 
Private consultations and coaching available. Contact her at
Please email Carol with a story or question about your own life for consideration for her monthly column.

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