I have been taking a class on mindfulness meditation for the last few weeks. It meets on Tuesday evenings and we all sit on yoga mats in a small room at the offices of several counselors. Our teacher is a lovely woman who makes meditation CDs for us with her wonderful soothing voice. I am learning something about slowing down my mind, breathing, relaxing, and being in the present moment. I am learning that this is something I am actually capable of doing, which until now I sincerely did not believe was possible.
It is really nice to lie on the floor, close my eyes, and listen to her voice taking me through a guided meditation. I don’t have to go to a beach, or breathe a certain way, or count, or even particularly use my imagination. The point is to notice what is. To just be in the moment. Honestly, you would think that is not a big deal, or hard to do, but for me it is quite a challenge.
It turns out that there are not very many things I do where I am actually present to my life. I am almost always thinking about the past or the future, in a hurry, rehearsing, reviewing, multitasking, or downright trying to avoid the present in any way possible. The short list I have compiled so far of activities when I am present are 1) getting a massage-who wouldn’t want to be present for that?! and 2) riding my horse. When I am on my horse I can just be there, present to him, present to myself, present to the beauty around me.
When I am driving I am almost never just there, in the car, experiencing that. Or walking. Have you ever slowed down enough to notice walking? We did it one night and it was amazing. I always walk to get somewhere and I am always thinking about something else when I am doing it. Eating is a big one. I almost never just eat. It makes me anxious to just sit and eat, to chew slowly, to savor the experience. I have always been kind of proud of my efficiency, my ability to multitask, to whip things together, to work quickly, to get a lot done in a day. Hmmmm.
The fact is, if I am honest with myself, my life does not feel important enough to me that it would be worth being present to. Why would it matter if I ate mindfully, or cooked mindfully or drove mindfully, or walked mindfully? Who cares?
But maybe the better question is, what would my life be like if I DID live mindfully? How would it be different? I know that just the act of writing in my blog has led me to living more mindfully and that has been a good thing for me, and maybe even for some of my readers. When I just zone out and watch TV or let Facebook suck the hours out of my day, there is nothing to say, just discontent, anxiety, boredom and the sense that somewhere else life is happening and I am missing it.
So I am trying this new way of thinking and living. I could spend a long time talking about the ways in which the last few months have been profoundly difficult and unsettling for me. I could. I could go on and on. But instead I would like to enjoy this present moment, in front of a warm fire, with the dogs asleep on the floor beside me, experiencing the pleasure of tapping out word on this keyboard, drinking a hot cup of coffee, and just breathing.
I think this tool, this practice, this way of being, can be a huge help during this time of year we refer to as “the holidays”. If you are anything like me, these couple of months are incredibly stressful and not a lot of fun. I envy those who revel in all the celebration but to me, it often just feels like an unbearable load of expectations that I am sure I cannot fulfill. It all comes from inside me. My family wishes profoundly that I could just relax. I am going to try this year. Somehow I need to get back to what this time of Advent, this time of waiting, is all about. If you have thoughts or suggestions, I would love to hear them. Meanwhile I am going to be sitting here, breathing.