If— by Rudyard Kipling: a poem for when people are behaving badly

Over a decade ago, in a moment when I knew I needed that kind of support, I booked myself into Sonoma Ashram for a few days. One afternoon I met with Babaji, the Ashram’s founder and resident monk. Weeping, I described the pain of being misunderstood, and worse, my anguish at being misrepresented to others.

“If someone is saying things about you that aren’t true,” he suggested, “swish cold water around in your mouth for a few seconds and then spit it out.”

He also recommended I try washing my feet in cold water.

Whenever I remember to do these things, I remember how powerful it can be to bring my attention to a part of my physical body, rather than let the unhelpful thought pattern continue to go ’round and ’round and ’round in my head. The shock of cold water often helps me see things from a different perspective, and sometimes that’s all it takes to break free from a mental whirlpool.

***

And just as often, words written by wiser souls are the balm.

Apart from the fact that “being a man” has never been a motivating factor for me, this poem is really helping this morning.

May I meet bad behavior in others without resorting to it myself!

If—
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

My favorite mindfulness app is Pocket (or: how to stay focused AND always have excellent reading material on your person)

Insight Timer is my first recommendation when people ask me about meditation or mindfulness apps, but it’s not actually the one I use most frequently. When it comes to actively strengthening the muscles of focus and attention, Pocket — yes, the app that lets you save articles and videos from the web to check out later — is my favorite.

Pocket App

What is mindfulness? Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John writes:

Mindfulness is becoming aware of the distractions in our daily lives, in our minds and hearts.

When we become aware of our distractions we are empowered to make a choice. We can either indulge in our distractions or come back to the task that we were initially focused on.

Developing mindfulness in our daily lives allows us to function at our full potential.

Meditation is the most widely-recognized tool for cultivating mindfulness. I’ve been meditating more-and-less regularly since 2009, and this practice has definitely helped me become more aware of my well-worn thought patterns, knee-jerk reactions, and compulsive behaviors… ever-so-gradually opening up more choice in terms of how I respond to the the things that life brings my way.

Surprisingly, using the Pocket app has also significantly deepened my awareness of the things that distract me, and given me a greater ability to focus… and not only while I’m browsing the internet.

I realize this sounds absurd, so before I continue, consider the following scenarios: Continue reading “My favorite mindfulness app is Pocket (or: how to stay focused AND always have excellent reading material on your person)”