Growing up in New England, I was always fascinated by the eye of a hurricane—the peaceful realm at the center of a rampaging storm. When a hurricane blew up in our area, its destructive winds and heavy rain battered us. But then there was a period of absolute calm and quiet before the violent weather returned. Being outdoors at this time was a mystical experience for me. As the intense energy of the storm swirled in every direction around me, inside the eye there was calm. It was silent, windless, aromatic, and tranquil. There was something hypnotic about the experience. I enjoyed a wonderful sense of being completely isolated from the rest of the world because I knew that, except in emergencies, people wouldn’t dare try to get in or out of the area surrounding the eye; it was too dangerous. And so, for a time, I had this otherworldly realm all to myself.
When we find ourselves in situations that seem tumultuous—being in the hospital, perhaps, or in the midst of an intense argument—it is important to be able to find the eye of the hurricane. During the most chaotic experiences of our lives, this eye can be found in the present moment. We suffer when we lose touch with the present and become fused with the unreality of the past or future, neither of which actually exists in the present.
Mindfulness practice trains us to make full contact with the present moment, the tranquil space amid the storm—most struggling is about rumination about the past or the future. When we are in full contact with whatever is occurring in the moment, it is less overwhelming and much simpler to manage.
Part Two will describe situations that are too stormy for many of us to even attempt practice mindfulness.