Mindfulness Activity #28
I have been reflecting on how and why people practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be thought of as self-care and often we do self-care only when we are calm and relaxed. In other words, when conditions are perfect, then we relax, light a candle, or take a bath. Ironically, those are the times when we are actually probably most mindful and connected. In the times we most need mindfulness we often feel that it is trivial or that it should “wait till we have time,” or until conditions are optimal.
Once I worked with someone who said she needed a quiet place to practice mindfulness. The reality is that it is wonderful to practice in a loud day room, or when you are in traffic, or annoyed waiting for the cable guy. Being mindful is a commitment…a lifestyle. Living mindfully means living with intention. It means that you will work over and over again to bring yourself back from distractions, self-centeredness, attachment, fear, worry, and rumination, through your breath…to the present moment. You will do it whether you feel like it or not and when you would prefer to avoid or ignore. Why should we do this?
Have you ever noticed that what feels terrible and unsolvable at one moment…say when you are tired or overwhelmed or in emotional pain, feels very different the next day? Buddhism talks about seeing reality without distortion. But how can one do that? Which one is real? The panic and fear, or the idea that something is unpleasant, but not permanent? Regular mindfulness practice produces clarity and reduces distortion. It also reduces feelings of panic and being overwhelmed.
To get the maximal benefits of mindfulness, we can’t treat mindfulness like a sporadic leisure activity, nor can we only seek it out when we are stressed. Making a commitment to being mindful every day for as much of your day as you can is the goal. We practice brief mindfulness practices each day to get us set and to connect to our intentions, but we live connected to our senses and the world around us. Regular mindfulness practice creates natural, more effortless connection to the present where we can live without fear or distortion. It affords us the ability to calm ourselves and focus in the face of whatever comes our way.
So for today’s practice, the goal is to just to notice your breath and return to it from any distractions you may have. Breathe and notice your thoughts as they come and go. Do this without losing the sensation of your breath coming in and out. Each time that you find yourself distracted, recognize yourself for noticing, and recommit to the practice on your next breath.
You can do this in silence or use the following background music (9 minutes)
Be safe and well.