Wednesday, 25 August 2010

mindfulness in a funeral

It is, I would guess, ill-advised to enter a mindfulness meditation when one is ministering at a funeral...but mindfulness is not, I think, entirely about meditation practice itself. It is also about understanding, feeling, in a particular way about - well, you know, time, life, death, mortality, the present, and so on...

At some point during a funeral ceremony, I usually find myself up front on my own looking at a coffin, whether it is by a graveside and people are arranging themselves whilst the undertaker does a bit of business with ropes and bearers, or at a crem whilst people are still filing in. I could look elsewhere, but that would look odd, and I don't want to.

If I get it right, it's a moment of strong focus on NOW. There's usually some tension underneath it. (will Sam in the control room fade the music as requested? or - if it rains and blows as hard as it did on the way here, will anyone hear anything and how soon can I get them back under cover without indecent haste? or - I didn't know X was going to say anything, I hope we don't overshoot, it's a busy morning at Slime Green Crematorium - you get the picture)But that focus, a hard look at the coffin for a minute or two, can cause all that to drop away. "What if" evaporates, "should I have..." dissolves, "when should I..." disintegrates, and I'm left with a powerful feeling of the present moment in a sort of super-reality. Hard to explain. Daresay other celebrinisters have similar experiences.

So it's not a meditation. I think it comes from a changed view of the importance of the right here right now, the need not to worry about anything else - and it's a real help, I'm grateful for it.


  1. You have certainly caught the zeitgeist, Gloria, as I have seen articles elsewhere about mindfulness (or maybe just noticed them more after reading your blog), and have tried a couple of techniques at times when I've felt the need.

    You are a far better person than me, if you can achieve that "now-ness" in the ceremony. During those quiet moments, once the technical anxieties are out of the way, my mind tends towards either "did I remember to ring that lady back" or "what shall I cook for supper".

    However, I may get close to it when we have a period of silence for reflection, as I am often counting, silently, to measure the time. I understand that it's not the same as mindfulness, but it is a quiet focus on something simple and "other".

    This is something I shall look into more deeply - thanks for the enlightenment.

  2. Thanks for this XP, I find it so interesting to hear of other people's mental states in similar situations - though I refute entirely the charge of being a better person! It is simply a spin-off of the course I took in mindfulness, I think, and it kind of just happened. I pounced on it and try to re-create it at will. With varying degrees of success.

    In any case, a "quier focus on something simple and other" sounds to be in the same zone, if that doesn't sound unbearably pretentious.

    I think it was Schopenhauer (do I get extra Hampstead-dinner-party points for that?? pure fluke, stumbled across it on the net) who said that if you don't come to terms with the zeitgeist, it will roll over you. It seems that mindfulness is an idea that is spreading, perhaps chiefly because it has been taken up by health services, so we may well come across it more frequently in places other than ashrams and the like. Maybe I should post about its origins - easily enough researched, but might pin together a few loose ends for readers. Heaven (or wherever) forbid we should get rolled over by the zeitgeist...