This morning I thought I would take my mindfulness on the road. I had to get my photo studio ready for an early morning shoot, and still wanted to get some mindfulness into my daily routine.
The process is this. The instructions are simple and direct.
- pick a task any task will do. The simpler the better.Eating, Sweeping the floor, cooking a meal, walking, listening to one piece of music,are some of the thousands of activities you can do mindfully.
- Engage that task while being mindful of your breath. “I am inhaling” I am exhaling”
- whenever you have a thought besides the task, you gently say to yourself “thinking” and bring yourself back to the activity.
I have always found this activity, to be difficult. Which , I know, means I should probably do more of it. It is truly amazing how quickly I can veer off into distracted thoughts and take the fast train away from the activity. It has gotten a little easier over the years, at least it is only a breath or two before I catch myself. Though many times it feels as if it is every other breath I am catching myself. There are so very many ways to be distracted.
This mornings mindfulness activity was to clean the studio, mindfully. I happen to live and work in my studio so that task also included folding 3 loads of laundry, sweeping the floor, and putting things in their correct place. Some of the mistakes that many beginning meditators make:
- To think that it is going to be different than it is. (i.e. managing expectations)
- That doing the meditation makes you distracted, rather than exposing how much you are distracted all of the time.
- To get frustrated with yourself and to just stop trying, because the task is too difficult, too boring, too hard, and too annoying.
- To forget to be kind to yourself when the task reveals you are distracted.
Folks, I found myself floating through all of these this morning, and yes, I said “thinking” and joyfully went back to the activity. Well, not joyful every time. Though I did continue to be mostly kind to myself.
I spent all of my summers when I was a kid, on a cattle ranch in Texas,The people below were the folks that worked and lived on the land. Not just the family ranch but some of the neighboring ranches as well.
There is a very defined Texas panhandle, cowboy, sense of humor that comes with the territory of constantly dealing with the wildness and unpredictability of nature, you have to come to grips with the fact that you are not in control. You can exert some control but ultimately you are not in control. The reason I mention any of this with regards to my mindfulness activity is that I think I picked up a lot of that sense of humor when dealing with the wildness and unpredictability of my mind, this is good and bad.
Here is an analogy of our minds:
Picture a Cowboy riding his new horse, the horse is skittish, the cowboy (the awareness of the mind) is paying attention to the horse (the body/mind) trying to get where they are going. The horse is constantly connected to its environment, it sees a stick move and it gets jumpy because it might be a snake, the horse sees grass it wants to eat, see things it wants to sniff, has to deal with annoying flies, has to deal with the rider having someplace it wants to go when the horse wants to go someplace else, it basically has a mind of its own. The rider has to keep mindful of where they want to go and this wild beast between their legs liable to jump, rear up or scoot sideways just when the rider has forgotten them and leave the rider upside down in a cactus wondering where their horse has gone.
Kicking and cussing ensue and the laughter after someone says “You looked like a lawn dart!” In short, the rider exerts some control but is not in control of all of the conditions of riding the horse.
Well, this morning I didn’t pull a cactus out of my butt, though the horse, my mind, and my relationship to it had my inner Texan cussing and laughing at my inability to “control” my mind.
Does this mean I shouldn’t have gotten on the horse (meditation) and gone for a ride in the first place, even though I ended up in a proverbial cactus of my own making? No! It was still fun! I also got a clearer understanding of the myself. The rider and the horse begin to form an understanding of each other. I am not sure how far I could take this analogy before it blows apart, ( I suspect it might already have gone off the rails) but regardless, there is an authenticity that begins to form. A conversation with your wildness, that raw, feeling, sensing self that ultimately has gotten you this far. Remember you are not in control. So be kind to the wild part of you, get to know it, respect it (your body/mind intrinsically knows it is not in control), and keep finding authentic ways to pay attention before you end up in a cactus!