That’s a record for me!
A Quick Recap
Drawing on Sara Harvey Yao’s article on mindfulness, I have been focusing on one strategy per week from Sara’s article to focus on.
- Week 1 – Intent. What is my intent as I do this or that task? – feeling more connected with my life, my time, my relationships.
- Week 2 – Details. What are the little details of what’s around me? – touch and taste are especially engaging and pleasant!
- Week 3 – Breathing. (Last week) Take 3 deep breaths when stressed. – pausing to breathe deeply in moments of intensity was a gift to myself. (More below.)
Let me take a few minutes to share an update on this week’s strategy, and then I will touch on the overall impact of my experiment so far.
Week 3: Breathe into Overwhelm.
Like Week 2 (attention to details), I thought breathing would be a kind of no-brainer. Everyone breathes; I’d heard before that taking deep breaths brings oxygen to your brain, helps the body calm, reducing adrenaline and other stress hormones. I’m also fortunate that, at this moment, I have less day-to-day stress than I have earlier in my life, when I had small children and a very stressful job.
However, this week I was actually caught off-guard by a very stressful moment in which I felt I had been disrespected and treated unprofessionally. My heart was pounding, I was upset and angry and feeling furious. Suddenly it popped into my brain: now is the time to try those deep breaths.
One. Two. Three. I took those breaths, and guess what? While I was still upset – that didn’t go away – I felt like I could stand back for a moment, separating myself and who I was from the treatment I had received. Wow. I did not expect it to be that helpful. Yay!
Overall: Practicing Mindfulness
How is this project going overall? Am I changing? Do I notice benefits from mindfulness? As many of you have said about your own practice of mindfulness, I am finding myself doing small things that add up to a feeling of being more connected with my life and with my body. A feeling that I can savor the days, savor time with family, savor my own writing work and creative activities. – Rather than rushing through, always planning ahead for the next thing, etc.
Even though I’m focusing on only one strategy per week, I find I can draw on the earlier strategies at times. Not intending to; but I sometimes think, what is my intent when I do this chore? Or, what am I tasting or touching right now? I’m finding that helps me feel calmer, or it shifts the perspective for me. Here is one small example:
This morning while brushing my teeth my mind went to a recent problem with a difficult family member. I found myself mentally rehearsing for how to speak to this person in the future. Along with the mental rehearsal, though, I noticed I was starting to feel upset.
Suddenly I asked myself – what is my intent in this? And it came to me: to protect myself from feeling so much sadness and pain the next time this person interacts with me.
On that thought I forgave myself for thinking about the future potential negative interaction. Remarkably, at that moment I also let go of the mental rehearsal and moved on to other things, understanding that my intent was help take care of myself.
Usually I would keep cycling on what I planned to say, how I would react when they criticized me (again), going over and over the imagined situation in my mind. Now – it was gone from my head.
Wow. This is a first! With that little anecdote, let’s move on to Week 4!
Week 4: Move your body
From Sara Harvey Yao’s article A present you give yourself, and others: being present during the holidays – The Seattle Times:
Move your body — Taking a walk, stretching or exercising gives you the opportunity to move from autopilot to presence. When you are moving, try to notice as much as you can about the experience. Perhaps what muscles are moving, what the air feels like or how fast your heart is pumping. Dropping into your body will give you a much-needed breather from the busyness of your mind.
This seems pretty straightforward, and as I have mentioned before, I take daily walks with my younger son already. We often walk in our local (urban forest) park, which is a semi-wooded ravine with a creek meandering along the bottom of the ravine. Every day is slightly different, depending on the temperature and humidity, the time of year, whether it’s raining or not (more often raining than not, this winter!).
So . . . this week’s strategy seems like something I’m already doing. But I will focus on this strategy in Week 4 anyway, like I have the earlier strategies. And we’ll see what happens!
Writing and mindfulness?
This week I am wondering, what are some of the connections between mindfulness and writing? Do you get “lost in the flow” when you write (or take photographs)? Is it more of a struggle at times, and if so, do you use mindfulness to bring yourself back to the moment?