Around the same time, a story appeared on a friend’s Facebook page that talked about the power of Mindfulness to change your brain. Mindfulness. There it was again, and within a few days a book came across my path called “Mindfulness as Medicine” by Sister Dang Nghiem, a Buddhist nun with Lyme Disease. Three nudges in rapid succession had me wondering if that which guides my heart is a lot more like Sheldon Cooper than I ever realized. Mindfulness. Maybe I should do this, I thought.
That’s about the time the question of writing about mindfulness resurfaced, with the same person, in a Facebook conversation. “I think it has excellent possibility," she said, wink and smile implied.
“Okay. Okay. Okay. I’ll do it,” I thought (to myself.)
To her I replied “I’m planning on mindfulness as a regular thing, but not from the perspective of having mastered it” literally Laughing Out Loud as I typed, “but from the perspective that being mindful can bring me back.” It was no secret to me that living mindfully can slow down the spin of my thoughts, help me relax, and remind me that this is the one real moment- the only real moment, and that every moment is a fresh beginning. It is also no secret to me that I tend to slack off in the self-help department once I feel better about things, which is not something I'm particularly proud of. That is, in fact, where I am right now – slacking; tense, worried, fearful, and filled with regrets. It was becoming more obvious by the second – I needed this. Maybe others do, too.
Years ago, when mindfulness began to rise in popularity, it sounded to me like a trendy celebritized buzz word. Being one who avoids trendy celebritized buzz words like my dog avoids the bathtub, I bristled and ran the other way.
Luckily, there are a few people in my life willing to guide me and patient enough to wait it out while I hem and haw and eventually get around to trying the things they’ve mentioned. One person even made an audio CD for me with her own voice guiding me through a short breathing exercise. She said “it might help you relax.” It did, too. It became part of my daily routine for a long time and, without even realizing it, I had learned how to use my own breath during stressful times which always brought me back to a calmer place, showing me that I was okay. Always. Imagine that. My breath. It had been there all along. It was like having a pair of ruby slippers just waiting to be called into action. As it turns out, this was a mindfulness meditation, but at the time I knew it as my relaxation CD.
Gradually, very gradually, I learned more. I sought out audio and video recordings from modern day spiritual teachers like Pema Chodron and Eckhardt Tolle, and meditation became very important. A daily mindfulness practice led me to a point where everything in my life began to feel safer. Nothing really changed, but everything changed. I changed.
Mindful is a heady word (no pun intended, but not bad). Don’t let it scare you. Anyone who has ever been a child already knows more than they realize. Most of us have just forgotten. It might help provide a sense of what living mindfully means if we try seeing a slice of life from a child's perspective. Let's imagine mashed potatoes.
When a two year old runs her chubby index finger across the smooth high chair tray through a heap of soft gushy stuff she notices with delight a deep impression left behind in the mound of squishy warmth. She feels the thickness of something they call mashed potatoes as her fingertip travels through the blob, disappears momentarily, and comes out on the other side of the mound covered in the stuff. The blob smells good as she brings it to her mouth, open and ready to receive it. Her lips close around the finger as she draws it out slowly, leaving the wonderful soft, fragrant mash behind. In that moment everything is about the mashed potatoes,. She is experiencing the moment without worrying about the potatoes that made a soft plopping sound as they splatted to the floor, She is definitely not worried about the just mopped tile, and thoughts about which pajamas she will wear after her bath have not entered her mind. She is simply being the one who is feeling, smelling, hearing, seeing, and tasting this thing called mashed potatoes.
Two year olds have it down. They came that way.
I myself cannot taste any food in a meal I’ve prepared without evaluating it for potential tweaks and improvements and announcing how I will change the recipe next time. A glance around the table tells me if everything is there. I hope everyone finds something to like in the meal as thoughts about what has to come out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner fill my head. A mental inventory of my pantry is taken and I decide if a trip to the grocery store will be necessary. Whomever happens to be at the table will converse about the events of the day and maybe what’s new in their lives. More often than not I find myself shocked to discover my food is gone as I stare at an empty plate. I finished dinner but missed the meal.
Lately, I find nearly all of my moments are filled with so much mental activity that simple enjoyment is nearly impossible. Something has to change it seems and it has to start with me. Which leads me back to my reason for writing this.
Why mindfulness? Because fifty-five year olds, and other humans over two, sometimes have to work at it a little (or a lot). It cannot be possible that I’m the only person over the age of two years old who needs a little companionship and encouragement on the journey.
Come back on the first Wednesday of every month for tips, tools, and treasures. We’ll explore practices, research, and inspiration for mindful living. Let’s talk about Mindfulness and see what comes up.
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