I have been practicing meditation for the past several years, beginning at a time when arthritis was ravaging my hip and sitting helped me be with the pain even as I was getting help. Now, it is part of what I do each day, usually first thing in the morning. I sit and know that I am sitting…at least for a few seconds at a time. While I have gotten better at focusing, I still find myself losing awareness of the present, my mind taking me to the past most often, generally reliving the negative events that have turned into stories.
Recognizing the patterns and learning to stop the stories from carrying me down the well-worn paths of critical self-talk is getting easier the more I practice. That word practice is essential. I don’t meditate. I practice meditation. That sense of working towards but never reaching whatever the end of practicing is (perfection? Please, no.) to be incredibly refreshing, a departure from my usual need to always get it right, which leads to more of that critical self-talk.
Lately, I have found myself practicing this present awareness even when I am not formally sitting. I folded the laundry with some level of mindfulness the other day. Normally, I rush through this mundane chore in order to get to the next thing. At that moment, folding the laundry was the thing and the next one could just wait its turn.
I’ve also been exploring different ways that people talk about practicing. I meant to share this interview with the Indigo Girls on Monday for International Women’s Day as their wonderful song Closer to Fine has been a part of my soundtrack since it was first published. They talk about practice and honing our skills, particularly as women.
As at least one nice person noticed, I have been blogging regularly for the new year. I do personal writing every day but have never developed a public practice. For now, my goal is to post every day, but I am giving myself lots of space around topics. Just post.
I did miss yesterday and didn’t even think about it until I was tucked in bed, too tired to do anything about it. So, today, I begin again.
Begin again: Those two words come up often in the other practice I am establishing: meditation. I signed up for the 10% Happier app challenge that started this past Monday. The goal is to meditate 15 out of 21 days, but I am working on finding time every day. I want this to be more than just taking ten breaths, though, but a real meditation practice that helps me understand how my perspective impacts my world.
The basic lesson so far has been that meditation is not about emptying the mind, as that is impossible, but about getting still and seeing how the mind works, the ideas that appear and disappear, the paths we wander down and those we ignore, the emotions that arise and their impact on our thoughts and body. There’s a lot going on when we are sitting quietly with our eyes closed. And we should view all of it with self-compassion and a sense of curiosity.
I know schools are adding mindfulness activities and training to the curriculum and am interested in learning more about how they work. I plan to make this a focus of my reading and research this spring. It would be possible, I think, for this to do more harm than good depending on the approach. But, at a basic level, learning to be able to identify your state of mind and use mindfulness techniques to connect and tinker with that state could be a useful skill in a stressful world.