Survival Guide

Wide Awake in Suburbia–Practicing Mindfulness


“You might be tempted to avoid the messiness of daily living for the tranquility of stillness and peacefulness. This of course would be an attachment to stillness and like any strong attachment, it leads to delusion. It arrests development and short-circuits the cultivation of wisdom.”   –Jon Kabat-Zinn


I often feel, living in suburbia, that I am living in an isolated cloister. Entering the suburbs, the outside world seems to vanish behind me. Suddenly all the world is smooth, clean pavement and carefully planted clusters of trees. Then, going deeper into the midst of my subdivision, I almost feel as though all connection to the outside world is lost. Now, all the world is manicured lawn and tidy little boxes. It would be so easy to pretend that all that exists is myself, my family, and our personal desires. I could fall asleep to everything else and become hopelessly self-centered and self-focused. In suburbia, as everywhere, it is so vital that we ask ourselves and answer ourselves honestly and completely, “Am I awake?” This is no small or simple question. Do not take it for granted that you are awake. I find myself many times fighting to remain awake–sometimes becoming lost in a dream world of unreality based on a false self and an ego sustained by the violence of consumption, greed, selfishness, and fear. It could be so easy to live in this habitual dreaming. Often I would like to turn away from all suffering in the world and all feelings within myself that are related to sadness. Yet, ignoring suffering will not make it disappear. Fighting against sadness will not make sadness end. Getting out of our comfort zones and confronting suffering and sadness is as important as celebrating joy and happiness. Being mindful, being awake to all, we can realize that we are co-creators of the world. We can develop the understanding that we are all interconnected and share a responsibility to one another. Being mindful, being awake to all, we open our hearts and allow them to feel the moment. We allow our hearts to keep vigil as we witness suffering. We allow our hearts to feel sadness. We allow our hearts to feel joy. We allow our hearts to be present to love.

Many world religions and contemplative traditions understand the importance of being awake and cultivating mindfulness. As Christ said to Peter, James, and John in Matthew 26 after he continually asked them to stay awake and keep watch:

“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up…” –Matthew 26:45b-46a

However, we need not adhere to any particular religious doctrine to understand and to benefit from living in mindfulness and truly being awake. Studies in the science of mind/body techniques for stress reduction have shown that mindfulness is a proven and necessary method for achieving and maintaining wellness. Being mindful is as simple as breathing in and breathing out. You can do it right now. Set as your intention to be aware of one breath in…and one breath out. Make time to keep this same intention as you sit comfortably in silence for five minutes. Then try ten. Then twenty.

Here are a few more mindfulness quotes and a poem for your reflection:

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”  –Pema Chödrön

“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. The tangerine I am eating is me. The mustard greens I am planting are me. I plant with all my heart and mind. I clean the teapot with the kind of attention I would have were I giving the baby Buddha or Jesus a bath. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred.”   –Thich Nhat Hanh

“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”   –James Baraz


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.




10 thoughts on “Survival Guide

    • Thank you so much, Allison. I’m so happy you like the blog…my little corner of suburbia. I am very excited for Panoplia! It is such a fabulous collection of incredible art and artists!

    • Thank you so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, indeed, very nice to find a fellow Seeker. I loved your book list. I may have to add a book list here somehow as well. Peace and Blessings.

  1. I loved it, thank you very much for sharing your taughts and recopilations, being mindful of ourselves in Suburbia is a dairy challenge that will set us free and magic.

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