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Dear graduates, today we celebrate

Humans celebrate. Some of you in multiple ways have distilled that down to simply "parteee." However, to celebrate is more than having fun. It is the way as a species we express and share joy, build confidence and chase away fear, provide collegial suppor
Humans celebrate. Some of you in multiple ways have distilled that down to simply "parteee." However, to celebrate is more than having fun. It is the way as a species we express and share joy, build confidence and chase away fear, provide collegial support and participate in vicarious excitement.
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In the spring, academic institutions hold commencements. Just in case there was a last-minute vacancy at my grandchildren’s pre-school, I wanted to be ready.

Dear Graduates,

Humans celebrate. Some of you in multiple ways have distilled that down to simply "parteee." However, to celebrate is more than having fun. It is the way as a species we express and share joy, build confidence and chase away fear, provide collegial support and participate in vicarious excitement.

Celebrations do not require beverages, party favorites or gifts. One also doesn’t have to wait until classes are over and the grades tallied. It doesn’t have to be scheduled, and no fancy clothes are necessary, including black flowing robes.

Celebrations can be daily linked with personal victories. They should be many and often.

To celebrate completely, we need to be mindful. The academic courses toward a degree usually do not include courses of mindfulness. Neither are there labs to practice this important instrument of higher learning. Nonetheless it is essential for total celebration.

The mindfulness is the power to marshal the forces of your brain. Mindfulness is the means by which you will see as if previously you were blind; hear what before you thought was silence; feel what the nerves were made to sense but had forgotten or were never taught.

Being aware of the world external to our minds and the universe that is within is mindfulness. It is worthy of celebration.

The path to mindfulness passes by five milestones.

To enter into the gate of mindfulness, one has to turn the key of agency. Walking into the garden of awareness is not by chance. Because there will be distractions along the way, one has to choose to become mindful. Making the decision will mean more than smelling the roses.

After you exercise your agency to change, the next milestone is attention. Attention means that you will bring all your mental powers to bear on the present moment, the present place and you, the present person.

While you may have thought you were paying attention in class, this attention is more intense and more persistent. It does not wander off and gets lost. When the brain jets from one thought to another, attention asks nicely that you bring the concentration back. To notice your breathing is a simple lesson. Attention is the capacity to listen to the silence of the in and out of breathing. It is the ability to feel invisible air molecules swell and move through the nose and throat.

Practice is the key to rearranging the wiring in our brains. This ability of the brain to grow beyond childhood is called neuroplasticity. Focusing your mind on only one thing does not come easily for many. The minute they start to direct their mental energy, some other thoughts come crashing into the brain like cosmic rays. Once we are able to be masters of our attention, we graduate to the next step.

Attunement is the third element toward our personal celebration. Emotionally connecting or attuning is a learned skill. Some know how; many others do not. Mirror cells within us reflect and interpret the feelings of others. We empathize because our neurons are in synchronicity with the neurons of another being. We know how to be happy because we see happiness in the expression of others.

Attachment is the next to the last post on the road toward mindfulness. It is the fruit of relationships you have with other beings. It is the sensation of security or the dread of insecurity. It is a way to describe how our brains and bodies react to the world around us. Do we see threats where threats are not? What does it take to create threats? Do we avoid, postpone, deny or escape the stress or have we learned helplessness? Hopefully, instead our secure response is to confront, to ask for help if needed, use language to define the problem, and know that you are not alone.

Finally to obtain the state of mindfulness we need to exercise the fundamentals of atonement. Atonement is to forgive. It is the way for us to forgive others and ourselves. It is employing the power beyond ourselves. It is healing. The divine is part of forgiveness.

Mindfulness is the state of awareness brought upon by agency to connect with others to obtain an innate non-verbal expression of security. This awareness is only possible if we forgive the past and be in the present.

On this one day of commencement, I invite one and all to be mindful. You will be the celebration.

Party on.

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for over 30 years, and a hospitalist and clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at jgcramermd@yahoo.com.