Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mindless or Mindful

Recently a friend posted on her blog about her goal to live more mindfully. She talks about how her intelligence and acute powers of observation lead her to be overstimulated and overwhelmed in many situations. She has tried many forms of calming herself--limiting the stimulii--but in the long run they don't work. So, instead, she is trying something new: mindfulness. Rather than try to calm her mind down or turn it off, she is maintaining its full power, but directing it in more specific ways.
So that's what this is about. Since this is my space, I'd like to take this one day a week to highlight the inspirations that cast rays of light into what is otherwise a difficult way to live. Simple things, humble things, beautiful things, ugly things that make everything else more beautiful, or maybe ugly things that are simply ugly, but wholly accepted in each moment of mindfulness -- whatever catches my attention in a way that helps me slow down and just breathe for a few precious seconds.
I thought about her post in the context of some of my recent life path--and I realized that mindfullness is a substantial part of what is bringing me peace too.

For years I've been aware of my tendency to get stressed out over things that didn't matter (or that didn't matter enough to warrant the amount of stress I was pouring onto them). One of the things that came out of that was that I struggle to fall asleep at night. It has been normal for me to lay in bed for at least 30 minutes trying to fall asleep, and I don't consider myself to be 'having a hard time getting to sleep' unless I have been laying still for over an hour but still feel alert. Even when I'm tired, even when my body begs to rest, even as I lay still and close my eyes, still my mind races on and on. My husband offered the helpful advice of "just clear your mind" but I am literally unable to do that. I do not know how to think of nothing. I do not know how to empty my mind. But reading Chandelle's post helped me realize what I do know how to do: I do know how to focus on something, and if I thoughtfully choose my points of focus, I can seriously affect my life.

I have always liked the guided relaxation portion of my prenatal yoga DVD. The instructor guides my focus through the various parts of my body, encouraging softening and relaxing and releasing throughout. I like the physical stillness yet mental awareness of yoga, and I am now realizing that this state is so good for me. I can observe and absorb with great focus, while my body is still (or engaged in some mundane task). So even as my mind is alert, it is able to be still. (edit--here is a post with a list of some of the things I do to practice mindfulness.)

The Celtic "Tree of Life" showing the interconnectedness of life
This year one of my goals was to increase my awareness of the interconnectedness of things. I believe that all truths--spiritual, scientific, emotional, or otherwise--all fit together. Which, by extension, means that all things have a spiritual aspect to them. As I have sought to observe--and tap into--that spirit, I have found my own spirituality growing. I may not find the time to spend hours in scripture study, and I have missed more church meetings this year than I care to count; yet, in spite of that, I feel closer to God and experience more peacefulness than I used to as well. It has been a remarkable exercise in mindfulness, even though I didn't think to call it that when I started.

1 comment:

Chandelle said...

Glad to hear we're on the same page. :) If you have the time, you might look at the library for books on insight meditation. I think you'd like some of the simple exercises.

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