After last week’s post, I thought I ought to qualify my neuroses worship. Yeah. It’s good to laugh at ourselves for our most difficult bits. I may laugh at my social anxiety for what a dork I am, but what if I stopped and just observed me being anxious for a few minutes? What might I learn? How could that help?
Well, for a start, I can stop being my thoughts. If we get a charley horse, we don’t shout, “Ah! I am a charley horse!” We say we “have a charley horse.” (Now I’m really curious why this is called a charley horse…OK. Turns out it’s from baseball.) So why do we say, “I am anxious?” Not, “I have anxious thoughts?” HMMMMMM!? Question this we must.
Sorry upfront for speaking the “M” word. Mindfulness has been co-opted by the corporate world to “incentivize” those folks who are overworked, underpaid, and/or without proper health care. Wellness as free pizza day. But that doesn’t negate the actual benefits mindfulness habits can reveal to us.
Mindfulness really only requires one thing. A point of concentration. Think of this as an anchor. We may drift from it, but when we wander, we can always return to that point. Mindfulness in meditation mainly focuses on the breath, observing an object, sense, or repeating a word or sound. It can even be noting the sensations in the body.
But we can practice mindful anything. We can take mindful walks. We may focus on the breath, the sensations of walking, and what we can sense or observe. We simply pay attention to one, or shift between senses. If our minds wander, we keep returning to the anchor.
The point is not to “stop our minds from wandering.” That’s what brains do. So, when we discover our minds have meandered off, note this without judging. Either the wandering or the thought, then return to the anchor. This is what strengthens the mind, helps us keep calm, undistracted, and in the moment.
Anxiety is intrusive, stressful, and spiraling thoughts, often about the future. If we find ourselves anxious about some paperwork or some hypothetical scenario of doom, this is when we note and observe this feeling. If we can continually keep pulling our brains back to our anchor in the present, the more easily we can remain safely and calmly moored.
So, instead of spending our time worrying, the quicker we get that paperwork done. Then no more worry. And if we can look calmly at our hypothetical scenario of doom, we might discover what is really at the root of that feeling. Overtime, we will get familiar with it so it has less and less of a grip over us and our lives. We may even laugh at it in blogs.
As I said, we can do just about anything mindfully. Coloring is fun. Simply keep putting down colors in a way we like. Playing an instrument requires mindfulness because it is time based. Have to maintain the rhythm, which requires being fully present in the moment.
I like yoga, besides the health benefit, it requires concentration on many things at once. The breath, balance, proper form, activating or relaxing certain muscles make me feel like I am juggling my own body. Lots to keep track of. Yoga has the added benefit of letting me feel where I an holding pain or tension in my body, and release it.
Sometimes in yoga — or any mindfulness practice — we may discover an old hurt or wound. We may suddenly find ourselves crying over something we had forgotten, but that has haunted us in some other form like anxiety or depression for years. And that is when we get to know ourselves a lot more.
Mindfulness also provides us with tools to deal with those discoveries. Practices involving self-love, forgiveness, gratitude (sorry “G” word), and compassion all help us put back together the pieces of ourselves that are broken.
Again, we could practice mindful dish washing or toothbrushing. The object is to keep bringing our wandering minds back around to our anchor. Each time we do this, we are working that brain muscle. Each time we get a little stronger, learn a bit more about ourselves. Then we can gently handle what we learn so that we can be calmer, happier, better, and more compassionate people. And we may end up with a new skill.
My yoga practice improves every time I practice. Even when the actual practice goes badly. Especially then. That’s why it’s called practice. [Gah! AI meme.] The same goes for basically anything “you put your mind to.” So pick a thing, any thing. Put aside a little time aside regularly for your thing, see what you learn, and if you can’t learn to laugh just a little more more at your inner dork.
Namasté you legends.
– JL ✌🏼💚🖖🏼🙏🏼🧘
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