Excellence Reporter: Zeenat, what is the meaning of life?
Zeenat Potia: I see open, receptive palms. Both receiving and offering the gifts of our collective human existence.
For me, this may look like hearing my daughter’s laughter, feeling the warm monsoon rains on my face, allowing myself to fully mourn the death of a friend, savoring the sweetness of a mango, walking slowly in the old woods on a Cape Cod trail, smelling my daughter’s freshly washed hair, staying with the empty, unpleasant feeling of loneliness, giving of my time to a cause that alleviates suffering in my community, cooking food for a new mother, listening deeply to those who have been silenced, and so on.
In other words, mindfulness is staying connected with our ordinary, everyday moments. It’s not having a mind empty of thoughts, and neither is it a big golden halo of enlightenment. Being mindful and deriving meaning, is living life to the fullest, and being with the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows that are available to us in this very moment. An open hearted awareness, a full embodied being in the now.
The open palms also symbolize a state of being that doesn’t shrink away from the inevitable pain that underlies being human. In staying with discomfort and disappointment, there is forbearance and resilience, which then leads to understanding and wisdom. The palms may get gnarly and worn down, but they remain fully alive.
The opposite is true as well. The palms remain open, not desperately seeking and grasping at pleasure or pleasant experiences, but tasting and savoring when those things come along, and then letting them move through, and flow on. Until the next time. In this way, we cultivate compassion and wisdom for the mind, body experience that we find ourselves in, and ultimately toward all living beings.
The meaning of life is thus fluid and ever changing, and the open palms allow us to be in the midst of it all.
~Zeenat Potia teaches mindfulness in Boston, and is an instructor for Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and eMindful. She has also taught meditation at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center since 2014, and served on the Board of Directors from 2012-2019. She integrates a business career of over 20 years in strategic communications in her corporate offerings. As an immigrant and a working mother, her teaching stems from an aspiration to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.
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