Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mindfulne-Oooh, Shiny!

For someone with as little natural energy as I have, you'd think I'd be great at meditating.

No. No I am not. I may just be sitting there, but didn't you notice the laptop, kindle, and smartphone, all active and open to several tabs simultaneously? Not to mention the TV or music on in the background? And the little tots running around?

Distraction is my middle name. No wonder I can't imagine meditating. I can't even imagine fewer than three simultaneous internet connections.

But as my friend Mirith pointed out in the comments last week, mindfulness doesn't have to come through meditation. It can come through whatever it is that makes you feel most present and aware of the moment while you're in it.

And as my friend (and husband) Bakum pointed out in the comments last week, I also don't have to start off with huge chunks of mindful time every day. I am new at this. I need to start with tiny moments at a time. One breath. Two. Three.

Baby steps. Not my favorite way to do things-- I like all or nothing, which means nothing a lot of the time. That is dumb. I get it.

Hey, wait, speaking of the comments (and speaking of easily distracted), do you ever read the comments on this blog? I have great commenters. Brilliant, insightful, eloquent, hilarious, and exceedingly good-looking, every one of them.

Also, they are all great kissers. ;>

I'm just pointing them out because... well, YOU could be a commenter here, if you wanted. I would appreciate it. The more of you who comment, the more we all learn. Lots and lots of you have emailed or texted me privately about many of the issues raised in this blog. You could sign in under a pseudonym if you don't want to be known publicly-- I will never out you-- and share your insights with the rest of the class. They will benefit from your contributions to the conversation. We all will.

Anyway. Back to whatever it was I was talking about.

Oh yeah. Distractable me. :/

I am looking through a book my husband recommended called Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I like it immediately because each "chapter" is about a page long. Or less. Tiny, bite-able chunks of information; just enough to ponder while you get to the real work of forcing yourself to be, for a moment, more aware of where you are and how you feel.

The first chapter talks about breath, and how paying attention to the sensations of breathing in the body is one of the easiest ways to anchor ourselves to the present moment.

I wonder if this has anything to do with why I've been having such a hard time breathing lately? The panic attacks I get are all about shortness of breath. I've been having that issue again over the past few days. The condition is definitely heightened by my own hyper-awareness of it once it starts, too. It's hard to pull out of a panic attack when the having of it causes you to panic. That's an ugly little self-fulfilling prophecy right there.

But I wonder: as I slowly become more aware of my body, am I triggering tiny defenses that are causing my lungs to freeze up in protest? Is learning to follow my breath making it harder and harder to breathe?

Don't get me wrong-- I get it that this reaction is completely psycho-somatic. It's just amazing how little that matters in the moment. A product of my own mind or not, not being able to suck in enough air to power a yawn is scary.

Part of me resists paying closer attention to my breathing for exactly this reason: being aware of it means not being able to ignore the panic.

Of course, this is the whole point of mindfulness and why it eventually helps-- sitting with your emotions, rather than avoiding and suppressing them, increases your resilience and makes it easier to cope with them overall.

Well. I'll try to stop suffocating long enough to remind myself of that fact. Sheesh. 

I logged into Superbetter earlier to resume my Quest toward my Epic Win. I'm making mindfulness my focus for now, and collecting tools and exercises for practicing it in different ways throughout my day. I'll keep at it and report in a week or two when I have more to show for my work there.


Well, despite my penchant for a nice tidy bow and an overarching message, I'm going to call this post posted and go try some mindfulness for a while this afternoon. 

But answer me this:

Do you ever practice deliberate mindfulness? What is the benefit, for you? How does it impact your moods, thoughts, or actions?


  1. Mindfulness is a wonderful concept, far better, in my opinion, than meditation. Although there is such a thing as walking meditation (not that I've tried it). I think there are many ways to sharpen awareness of the moment without necessarily having to stop everything (well, maybe doing one thing at a time while being mindful of it, is the way to go, rather than trying to keep several internet connections going while posting and planning and mothering AND aiming to be mindful). But, to tell the truth, I stopped worrying about all that some years back. If you're stressed, slow down. If you're just living and doing, just live and do. A mantra?

  2. I've just been catching up on your last couple of months of posts, and back when you described being disconnected with parts of your body when you tried to relax them, I immediately thought of my meditation course through I was absolutely amazed how aware of my body I was able to become by the end of the 10-day course - I didn't even know that level of awareness was possible.

    I'm hesitant to recommend it for you because from what you've written it just as plausible that you would hate it as love it, but I know having that skill would be tremendously helpful for you. Let me know if you are interested to know more about it. I'm going to be doing my 3rd 10-day course in Thailand in a few months.

  3. It calms me down.  I tend to jump on at things.  Leap before I look.  It keeps my feet on the ground and out of my mouth.  Being hyperactive, slowing my responses does not come naturally.  Becoming mindful of my feelings allows me time to truly assess a situation and form a more thoughtful response