Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mindfulness - Was William Shakespeare a Buddhist?

Marilyn Roxie, Flickr

Guest post by Shawn McKim

Mindfulness is a way of communicating.

I must come across as someone who either a) is mindful or b) is mindless. 
Either way, it would do me good to think about thinking, and then write about it.
So here I am, thinking about thinking. Actually, I’m procrastinating. But
I’m thinking about it. Does that count? Can mindfulness be an exercise in
stream-of-consciousness? Can it be a journal-style entry? Are there ever
any rules for writing about such a topic?

I thought about creating a character and revealing this character through
a monologue. The monologue would in turn reveal what the character was
thinking, since that is a monologue's primary function. But if you think
about it, it would really be about what I was thinking, since I created
the character and wrote every single word the character said/thought. This
had me thinking even deeper. Is Shakespeare all of his characters? Most of
them have monologues, which reveal their true intentions. Most of them
have deep thoughts that they would never admit to other characters. The
device becomes useful when the audience needs to know something about a
character that the playwright isn’t ready to reveal through action.

Shakespeare’s characters’ thoughts are really only his in part. I say this
because his characters represent all kinds of realms of the human psyche.
They represent greed, loneliness, jealousy, anger, love, passion, sanity,
and insanity, among other things. Is Shakespeare all of those things? Of
course he is. But not at the same time. That would be confusing. Like all
of us, Shakespeare suffered from the human condition, so therefore he
wrote about the human condition. And since this human condition is all
about feeling different things for different reasons; feeling confused;
feeling unbalanced... writing about it helps us make sense of it - both to
ourselves and to others.

So maybe that’s why I’m writing about this stuff. I’m suffering from the
human condition. I am everything and nothing at the same time. I am trying to make sense of everything and nothing by writing about it. I choose the
topic of mindfulness because it is bringing my thoughts to the forefront.
I am forced to deal with them straight on. There is no hiding whilst
writing. Naturally, my head turns to soliloquies, monologues, and
speeches. The literary way to express one’s feelings and thoughts. And who
wrote some of the most famous soliloquies? Shakespeare.

Upon my initial research, I am finding that most of Shakespeare’s famous
speeches involve the topic of mindfulness. Sometimes it isn't obvious but
sometimes it is. For example, in Macbeth the title character finds out his
wife has committed suicide. In response, he says to himself:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
—To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth is thinking about life. But Shakespeare is thinking 
about thinking about life. I try to remind myself that these characters are not real. They are creations by an author. A real person. A real, thinking, feeling,
writing person, not unlike myself. Macbeth is just one of many extensions
of Shakespeare’s psyche. He has to be. Otherwise, where did these words
come from? In order for Macbeth to compare life to a walking shadow or a
frustrated actor, he would have to feel this way himself; at least
sometimes. Is Shakespeare always frustrated and concerned about life?
Perhaps not. Does he really feel like there is no use for anything? Maybe
sometimes. But not all the time, because Romeo was full of life and love
and hope:

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

Romeo barely knows this girl and yet he has fallen deeply in love. He is
comparing her eyes to the stars and is, for all intents and purposes, in
heaven just by looking at them.

Is this not Shakespeare as well? Remembering what it was like to fall in
love for the first time? How could he be both Macbeth and Romeo? They are
so conflicting in their worldviews. So conflicting in their attitudes.
Easy. Shakespeare, like all of us, is all kinds of things. He is greedy,
lonely, jealous, angry, loving, passionate, sane, and insane. It’s his job
to write about these feelings for his audience is all of us, and we are
all of these things as well.

Mindfulness is a way of communicating. Perhaps not in the traditional
sense of speaking aloud to another person. Conveying a message is not
always that simple or empirical. It can be as complex and deep as a
character in a play, soliloquizing about anything, everything, and
nothing, all at the same time.

Mindfulness this Week

If you would like to submit a piece on your mindfulness thoughts and processes, please address it to mleuxj at gmail dot com.

Be part of the process: 

Submit your comments below

Become a follower of the blog/subscribe by email (top left corner of this page)

1 comment:

  1. I used to just do, now I tend to think more about what I am doing. Perhaps I have regressed.

    I used the quote "It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing."

    on the introductory page of a paper I wrote in college about Shakespeare. I got an "A" on the paper proving that I was not the only idiot involved with the experience.