Mindfulness Blog

Not Meditating is Instructive, Too

Having not meditated (except once for 5 min) for about 2 weeks, I just meditated for 20 minutes, focusing on my breath, noticing when I was distracted or lost in thought, and doing my best to return to focusing on my breath without judging myself or wondering too much if I was “meditating right”.

As I’ve just finished this meditation, I’ve noticed I do not feel as (uncontrollably) impulsive. I feel compelled to do things (get up and play with the cat who was meowing, write down a plan for the week, cook, go on a walk, clean, a bunch of things that came to mind throughout the meditation). However, I feel there is this gap again between feeling compelled to do something and actually doing it. That gap is a moment to choose how to proceed. One of the greatest benefits of meditation can be creating that space of awareness when we feel compelled to do something, and having more time/ability to choose how to proceed — developing a greater ability to respond, rather than react. For example, choosing how to respond to someone who’s irritating you, rather than simply snapping at them, or deciding what to do in a frightening situation, rather than reacting with panic. After this meditation, I noticed that I had not noticed how small this space of awareness had become for me, and I was acting far more impulsively.

I feel calmer, less out of control and less like I have to do …everything that comes to mind. I don’t feel so much like whatever I choose will have negative effects, either, so in a sense, I suppose there’s a gap between my thoughts and whether I end up believe my thoughts or not. For example, I may think exercising is good, but also maybe it’ll mess up my day because I’ll be tired. And when do I shower? Now? What if I want to exercise? Do I just shower more than once? Without a little more space to realize once more that thoughts are not facts, it can be hard to decide what to do, and easy to end up doing nothing. After meditating today, these things and thoughts seem less overpowering and overwhelming.

What does all this have to do with the title of this post? The chapter titled “Not Practicing is Practicingfrom Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go. There You Are discusses the instructiveness of not meditating for a while. The main idea I’ve taken from that chapter is that when we don’t do something for a while — in this case meditate — when we do finally start again, we can see the impact meditation has on us, be it our daily lives, the feeling we have after a meditation, etc. We are able to see with somewhat fresh eyes the benefits we may have been taking for granted, or stopped realizing were even from the practice of meditation. 

Forgetting or neglecting to be mindful can teach you a lot more than just being mindful all the time.”  Applying the same principle to yoga, “…every time you come back to yoga practice, you see the effect of not having done it for a while.”

 Jon Kabat-Zinn in Wherever You Go, There You Are

So, I urge you, whether the activity be meditation or something else, to keep this in mind if you pick back up a habit you lost the rhythm of or if you’re still struggling to get back into that habit. Either way, it can be instructional. And remember, you can always start again now. Or now. And even right now.

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“Positive Affirmation for Anxiety Recovery”

This isn’t exactly mindfulness, but affirmations have their helpful place, as well. For those of you dealing with anxiety, this may speak to you and help you at times:

From Dancing with Fear by Paul Foxman (page 206)

I will not worry in advance about what might happen. I will live each day, take care of myself, and take things as they come. I will plan for the future, but live in the present. I know that anxiety is a normal part of life, and that it is not life-threatening. I will have faith in myself and trust that I can handle whatever may happen. And I will remind myself that whatever happens was meant to be.”

image credit — photo taken in Downtown Atlanta

The Perfect Mindful Poem

I was trying to find the “perfect mindful poem” for today. I looked through the works of Rumi, who I learned is well renowned, though I know little else. I was looking through a poetry website called the Poetry Foundation, hoping to find something that spoke to me, made me feel inspired or full of awe at the world around me. I spent at least an hour or so over the course of the day doing this.

I write this now after realizing the idea is really to be mindful of my experience seeking a “perfect” poem. What do I think a perfect poem is?

I notice my thoughts changing about what poetry even is. I realize it’s been so long since I read a poem, that the structure and content are unexpected and unfamiliar. I’m remembering the struggle to read through a poem, in it’s non-intuitive structure and wording. I think back to childhood, when I was slow to learn to read, and I wonder if others have an easier time reading poetry. I notice I expect myself to feel more about each poem. I notice myself giving up easily, part way through reading a poem….

The experience above is mindfulness. Just noticing what there is.

 

Of course, after writing most of this post, I found the image I posted above with a quote by Rumi — I found something profound after all.

And here is a poem for you. What do you notice as you read it?:

“I want to see you.

Know your voice.

Recognize you when you

first come ’round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come

into a room you’ve just left.

Know the lift of your heel,

the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way

you purse your lips

then let them part,

just the slightest bit,

when I lean in to your space

and kiss you.

I want to know the joy

of how you whisper

‘more.’”

Rumi (link)

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Remember to Stop and Smell the Roses (or Sunflowers)!

Just a friendly reminder to take a moment to stop and take in what’s around you :). This doesn’t have to be limited to pleasant or unpleasant times/experiences/etc. and can be done at any time — the train ride home, the walk to your front door, your desk at work, a walk to get lunch, a walk outside, a sunset, … the list goes on and on.

A related article — 7 Reasons You Should Make Time For The Sunset

“There is something inherently powerful and spiritual about sunsets, and we can benefit from incorporating such experiences into a regular ritual.”

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