Being Mindful

Expectations. What we want to happen. What we hope will happen.

Except things rarely turn exactly as we expect.

Again today, I met with several elderly widows in a nearby retirement community who wanted to hear more about my three years on a sailboat, a story I told in Sailing Down the Moonbeam.

Today’s topic was expectations—the fact that nothing on a sailboat ever goes according to plan. You can’t control the wind or the currents, so you have to live in the moment. Buddhists call it “mindfulness.”

I struggled as I drew up the agenda for the day. I already knew that each of the women had done something quite extraordinary with her life. What insights did my sailing adventure offer that they didn’t already know?

I needn’t have worried. When I mentioned mindfulness and the related Buddhist notion that suffering is a consequence of desire—of wanting something you don’t have, of wanting to hang on to something you once had—it struck a chord. The hour flew by, as they shared their experiences of dealing with change in their own lives.

We never got around to my agenda. They were learning from each other. And once again, I was learning from them.

That was mindfulness in action.


  1. This is one of the reasons I love my day job, Mary.
    I work with elderly women most of whom are on Hospice
    I learn so much from them. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to value and preserve precious memories.

    • Doreen. Thanks for the lovely thought … and for delving so far back into the archived blogs! We can always learn from other people, even when (in theory) we are supposed to be teaching!

  2. Elaine Moxon says


    What a beautiful story. Nothing can replace wisdom. No research texts can compare to first hand memories. I can empathise with your experience, having given a couple of talks on history, relating to my novels. I too worried what to share that might inform my audience. In the end it was the open discussion at the end, and after talk drinks where I learned some interesting things from my audience. It was humbling and uplifting.

    • Mary Gottschalk says

      Thanks Elaine. I agree that the best part of book groups and readings is the discussion that follows … in part what I as a human being learn from other’s experiences, in part the pleasure that I as an author or teacher get in realizing that my words or ideas have been able to touch something significant in my readers or students.
      Thanks for stopping by … I’ll check out your website!