Mindfulness Is Practical

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By Steve Stein

September 10, 2021

An Evening With Ram Dass

It all started about a year ago. I was reading The New York Times with my 1.25 readers and they seemed not quite up to the task. So I said to myself, “I need to get new reading glasses.”

Time went by. Covid hit this past winter and one evening while playing ping pong with my boys, I tried to hit the ball and ended up missing the ball all together, swing and a miss.

I didn’t make much of it. I didn’t realize what I was missing, so time goes by and I’m cheering for my son at his AAU game with my mask on. My eye gets all inflamed and I start to not be able to focus with my right eye. This was very disconcerting. We make an emergency call to the doctor, who tells me to cover my right eye with my left hand. I do that and everything looked good. Then I am directed to cover my left eye with my right hand. To my dismay, I realized I could not see with my right eye.

I hadn’t noticed that my mind had adapted and my left eye was doing all the work while my right eye seemed to be going blind.

“I didn’t see what I didn’t see.”

Needless to say, this freaked out myself and my family. The doctor asked me to come in for an examination, which showed that I had a “a big mother of a cataract” on my right eye. I believe that was how the doctor described it.

This reminded me of when I worked with Ram Dass in 1985, and we recorded An Evening With Ram Dass. The event was a fundraiser for the Seva Foundation. The primary purpose of Seva was and still is to get cataract surgeries for folks going blind in India. Now I knew first hand what is would look like to lose your sight from a cataract.

The surgery was scheduled on the day of a once in a lifetime solar eclipse. I was nervous and I couldn’t sleep that well the night before, so I greeted the sun as it rose. A little later, I tried to experience the eclipse, but was not able to see it. This made me even more nervous — what if I wasn’t able to see anything out of my eye again?

In the afternoon, it was finally time for my surgery. As I was getting the anesthesia, the nurse took my blood pressure, which was something like 121 over 101, and they asked me if I was nervous. I said that I was, a little. They responded by saying we can’t really proceed with the surgery until we get your blood pressure back to normal.

Fortunately, I know how to meditate.

So I took a minute and right there in my hospital gown, I closed my eyes to began a quick meditation practice. Very quickly after I started, my blood pressure had gone down to 101 over 80. In less than 90 seconds my blood pressure was back to normal and I was able to have the surgery. Thankfully it went well, but if I didn’t know how to meditate, I wouldn’t have been able to have the procedure. Or they would have needed to give me some other drug to calm me down. A large number of illnesses are caused by side effects to medications. Another plus about meditation is there are no side effects, besides maybe smiling and relaxing.

Immediately after the surgery and for the following three days, I was seeing double as my brain recalibrated. Whenever I felt nervous or wondered if my eye would ever recover, I would return to the present moment to help keep myself calm and focused. Now, I have 20/20 vision and can read the entire New York Times with no glasses.

So mindfulness is practical. And it’s so easy to miss what you don’t see. But getting present. Bringing my blood pressure down reminded me that the practice of mindfulness meditation is indeed practical.

It’s so easy to miss what you don’t see (literally don’t see, in my case). But getting present and being mindful is useful every day of our lives.

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  • Steve Stein