Mindfulness Activity #36
Letting Go of Ineffective Patterns
As I am writing to you this morning, I hear a solid thud against my house. There is a tree outside my window where a robin sits most of the day every day. However, for at least the last month, every morning and every early afternoon, this robin repeatedly flies into the top portion of my window and bangs into the top the of my window. She does this over and over, day after day. I have been worried for her, and worried for my window. So, each day I have tried to signal to her that her actions were incorrect, futile, unhelpful…I knocked on the window, I put my drapes halfway open-all the way closed…anything, so that she could see that this was not open space. I hung red paper. I put a bird house out in the same tree, all to no avail. I just thought of wind chimes, so I will try that after our mindfulness. However, as of this moment, she is persisting in doing this over and over. As I have written this, she has banged into the window exactly 27 times.
I know that yesterday’s practice asked us to consider persistence and determination. This bird is nothing if not persistent. However, she appears to continue blindly, without taking in new information, repeating an ineffective behavior over and over again. Take a moment to consider your own life. Are there any ways in which you continue to do the same thing over and over, even though it is ineffective? Any habits you repeat without thought, or that you slide into simply because they are familiar or automatic?
Today’s mindfulness is designed to shake us awake and out of futile or ineffective patterns. Beginner’s mind is something we have practiced. Recall that it involves seeing the present moment as if it is novel, without preconceived notions. There is a saying by Zen Master, Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” …Beginner’s mind involves seeing the world, yourself, and your actions with fresh eyes, like someone else without your experience might, noticing each detail. Mindfulness requires that we observe and describe our world, and that we do so with undivided attention, without judgment or preconception, and that we act wisely and effectively. I have no doubt that this Robin is looking for a nice place to make a nest, but it seems evident that my dining room is not the pace to build her nest. The thud count is up to 37…If only she could take in all the other places around the house and yard to build.
For today’s practice, let’s not be like this little robin. My wish for her is that she sees the nice house I put outside, or that she finds a nice tree, or sheltered corner or awning where she could build a safe nest. Let us today recall the principles of beginner’s mind and practice. Sit comfortably, take a few breaths and when you are ready to begin, click the following link.
Now that you have directed your attention to observing without preconception, consider patterns in your life when you might be behaving like my little robin. Where you are repeating something that is ineffective? When do you continue to engage in an unhelpful but familiar dance in the face of the same situations or triggers? Do your best to breathe and to observe your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors surrounding the situation. What have you missed? What would be more effective? How could you find a different response or path? If you don’t have an answer, that is fine, just commit to paying close attention and to noticing without judgment the next time you encounter the situation. Through mindful attention, a different response is possible. As we continue to notice and gather new information, effectiveness, also known as wise mind can be actualized.
Wishing for effectiveness in all the places we feel stuck! Regards,