Do This. Get That.

Have you noticed how many “Do this. Get that.” prescriptions vie for our attention every day? In ads, articles, and books; on blogs and in social media. How often do we say to ourselves, “If only I would do such-and-such, I would be happier, feel better, be more successful, have more friends and followers, or fill in the blank with your own “would be  ______.”

Do This Get That

It feels like a cultural epidemic.  Even in publications that embrace mindfulness, we constantly hear about how meditation makes us more kind, less stressed, smarter, healthier, more tolerant, better at our jobs, in school, at home, and with our children. Meditate. Get healthy. Meditate. Be more successful at work. Meditate do better at school. Meditate. Get _____. (You fill in the blank.)

It isn’t that mindfulness doesn’t help us open to our happiness, look with fresh eyes, be present and live acceptingly in the moment. Being mindful and cultivating mindfulness with meditation is about process. It is about the doing, not the getting. Even when we mediate every day, everyday life goes on, good and bad things happen, and new and tough situations arise. Mindfulness is about the very process of being with ourselves, with others, and with our environment.

How about just sitting and breathing with no more intention than to sit, breathe, pay attention, and when the mind wanders to return to paying attention? How about giving up all the objectives and throwing the promises out the door. How about just sitting with pinpoint focus on the breath and nothing more? You just might be amazed.

A Very Difficult Person

Perhaps there is someone in your life whose actions and or words you find difficult, perhaps very difficult. If this feels right, you might do the following. Taking a few minutes gather together a piece of paper and a pen. Now, find a quiet place where you can sit and write.

Open green book with pen on white background.

Sitting, let your body take its most comfortable position.  Feel your feet and what they are touching. Sense the seat beneath you and how it supports you. Notice your hands and what they are touching, how they, perhaps, hold the pen and the paper, too.

Now write the person’s name at the top of the paper. Perhaps the person’s name is Jane. Write ‘Jane’ at the top of the paper.

Now bring your awareness to your breath. Just the way it is. Breathing in, pausing, breathing out just breathing as it is right now. No need to change it. If it feels right take a deeper breath.

Now bring your awareness inside your body to your inner knowing of what feels right for you. Take your time. Sense your more spacious and whole self arriving inside. As you do, you might become aware of something in the throat, chest, stomach or belly, or somewhere else. Just notice what’s alive for you right now and acknowledge that it is here.

Now bring your awareness to what’s difficult about this person and invite it to be present. You might say to yourself, “I’m inviting that whole thing about [name of person] and [describe briefly in a couple of words the difficulty]. Here’s an example. “I’m inviting that whole thing about Jane and how she treated me in the meeting to be here now.”

Acknowledge what comes. It might be a picture, video, feeling or emotion. Whatever comes acknowledge it gently with respect and empathy. You might say something to yourself like, “Ah, hello, I see you are/it is here.”

Now, taking your time, invite three good qualities of this difficult person to come forward. You might say. “I’m inviting three good qualities of Jane to make themselves known.” Perhaps only one or two good qualities will come forward. That’s OK, too. Write each one down. Even if there is only one good quality, write that down on the piece of paper under the name of the person.

When you have finished writing, put the pen down.  If it feels right take a breath, feel your feet and hands and what they are touching. Feel the support of what you are sitting on beneath you.

Read the first good quality to yourself. Now, sense how that good quality feels in your body. Let that feeling be there as fully as it wants to be. Now read the second good quality and sense it in your body letting it be there as fully as it wants. Now do the same for the third quality. Notice how your body feels now. Perhaps something has changed. Perhaps there is more space or a flowing or lightness. Just notice.

Seeing the good in someone, even in a difficult person, doesn’t hurt and can help you feel good, too.

On Autopilot?

Mostly, we go about our day on autopilot. It makes sense that we do not consciously have to decide moment-by-moment, what next. We just do what we do. Every day, we get up, get dressed, brush our teeth, wash our faces, get our kids off to school, go to work, eat, drive, and so on without thinking about what we are doing.

This is not a bad thing. Imagine the effort we would expend to consciously and repeatedly make the same decisions and navigate the same minutia of the same activities day after day. Perhaps exhausting.

On the other hand, when on autopilot we cannot savor what is right here, right now for us; we are not fully present and alive. We might be missing feeling the joy of even the simplest activity. Or, we might be missing something that some part of us might be trying to tell or show us.

What? you might be asking. Who cares!  And, you might also be sensing some budding curiosity in discovering what might come forward by spending a little time with something that doesn’t seem to need any attention at all.

How about bringing your full attention to some routine activity: Brushing your teeth, drinking a coffee or eating a doughnut or bowl of cereal, getting dressed, or driving to work?

Exploring bringing your awareness to something simple that we all do, like brushing our teeth, is a good place to start. Let’s do it.

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Notice how you pick up the brush, apply the toothpaste, and turn on the water. Really pay attention as you hold the brush. Be aware of which hand and kind of grip you use.  Sense how it feels to hold the brush. Now, squeeze the toothpaste onto the brush. What do you see? How would you describe the toothpaste going onto to the brush? And, the water? What do you notice?

Now bring your attention to brushing your teeth. Notice your stroke. Maybe you go up-and-down, side-to-side, round-and-round or some other combination of moves. Sense what it feels like as the brush contacts the the teeth and gums. Notice the texture of the toothpaste mixing with your saliva and how it tastes. What’s your tongue doing?  Do you swallow? Tune into how it feels inside, in your body.  Be aware of looking in the mirror and how that is. Notice when you decide to stop brushing and how that feels.

Be aware of how you finish up.  Perhaps you rinse your mouth, or not. Notice each step you take to clean and put away the brush. Notice your hands and how they feel as you do this.

Perhaps take a moment now and reflect. How was this different from brushing on autopilot? You might be surprised. Welcome whatever comes to you.

Perhaps your senses of taste, sight, touch, hearing, and smell have woken up. How was that? Maybe you noticed something you enjoyed or something that felt unpleasant. Take a few moments to describe what has come for you.

If something pleasurable is there, take your time and let it be there as fully as it wants to be. Now sense how that feels inside, in your body, having done that.

Perhaps it has brought forward something that is wanting your attention, something that doesn’t feel quite right, stuck, painful, or out-of-place.  It might have come as a feeling, a memory, an image, or a story. Check that out and see if something like that is there for you. If it is, you might say hello to it and let it know that you are willing to come back to it and spend time with it. Now notice how doing that feels inside.

This is it. Even the simplest, most routine and mundane activity is alive for us when we pay attention. And, by paying attention what springs forward may be pleasant and flowing and/or open us to something in us that given our compassionate attention and active listening moves us forward in our lives with just rightness.

What To Do About Cravings

From time to time, all of us have experienced cravings: Those intense and eager desires that drive us to react with behaviors that we often regret afterwards.

For some of us repetitive bouts of craving push us into behaviors that are harmful to ourselves. These behaviors may take the form of eating excessively, smoking, drug-taking, or may take some other form. So, what can we do when a craving–that intense urge–hits leading us to react with a behavior that does not actually help us?

We can surf the urge. Developed for people in recovery for addictive behaviors, urge surfing can help all of us deal with cravings in a way that does not engage a reactive behavior. Based on mindfulness, that state of active, open attention on the present, urge surfing provides a path for riding cravings like a surfer rides a wave.

When a craving strikes we breathe and commit to stay with the feeling. We don’t try to push the feeling away or judge it. We just stay with it. We release tension by noticing what’s happening in the body right now: Head, throat, back, belly, and so on.

We notice our reaction to what’s happening right now. If the feeling is increasing, we imagine that it is like a wave that goes up and up. Like a surfer, we are rising and staying with the wave of feeling by using our breath. We use our breath just as a surfer uses his surf board to stay with the wave. As we ride the feeling of craving, it reaches a crest and then falls away, just as a wave does.

We may even be able to find space as we are riding the craving to be curious, to enquire, “What’s here?” “What do we really need?” “What’s underneath?” It’s not the object of our craving–the food, or cigarette, or drug. Maybe it is loneliness or stress and a desire for relief. Maybe it is emotions or thought patterns and a desire to be free from them. Whatever is there, be kind and gentle and stay with the experience.

So let’s learn to surf the urge with this guided audio recording.

Surf the Urge Audio File from Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention