Life Lab Series – October
I have a very active mind. As a Gemini, an Enneagram 4, and a Human Design Manifestor, I’m wired to think a lot and fast and I go deep. Too fast and way too deep sometimes. I have more ideas that I can possibly execute, and I like to be in do mode.
And that’s just my mind. My emotions are a whole other animal. Just ask my therapist and my coach. Yes, therapists and coaches have therapists and coaches. We have to.
Learning to manage my rapid-fire ideas, deep thoughts, big feelings, and intense sensations is a work in progress. My life’s work, if I’m being honest.
One of the big ways I’m working on this is mindfulness. Practicing it. Experimenting with it.
Have you tried it? Heard of it even?
It’s about learning to pay closer attention to what’s happening with you – with your mind, body, heart, and spirit - right now. This very moment. And to not judge it as good or bad. And to not try to change it. Just to notice and be with whatever is happening. With what is.
Like…“I’m thinking this right now, I’m noticing that, I’m feeling this, I’m seeing this.”
Sounds great, right? So fun and exciting! Ha. I hear you. And same.
I’ve studied mindfulness for years. I’m trained to use it in my work with clients, and it’s the foundation of almost every theory and technique I use as a life guide. And I practice with it daily. Hourly. Minute-ly?
But to my active, doing, intensity-seeking, Air-sign nature, it’s kinda, well, you know…boring. It’s a very slow process. And a still one. And quiet. It has no agenda and isn’t trying to get anywhere. There’s nothing I have to do. Or be. Or say. It’s about being grounded & centered.
And while I appreciate and need all those qualities in my daily life to stay sane and not act like a dumb asshole, I avoid them. I know they’re good for me – essential even – but I drag my feet. I hem, haw, whine, and protest. I resist because I don’t want to be mindful, to be more aware of what I’m thinking or feeling or sensing, to be “with” my “present moment experience.”
Nah, I’d rather keep it moving. Get going. Make shit happen.
I’ll even go all cerebral and pronounce “Mindfulness is dead.” I’ll argue its lost relevance and everyone’s moved on, treating the ancient practice like some buzzy brainchild of a slick marketing team in LA trying to sell their app, green juice or line of athleisure.
The brilliance of mindfulness is that it cuts right through all that foot dragging and mental masturbating. Shines through it really. Mindfulness would never cut. It doesn’t need to because it’s that gentle yet powerful. Sure, it can seem or even feel boring, sometimes annoying or like it just won’t help. But that’s its magic.
The magic is that I get to avoid being mindful and still be mindful. What the what?? You mean I can be mindful when I’m whining about not wanting to be, when I’m resisting it, and when I just want to stay busy until I drop?
Yes! Yes I can. And yes you can. Take a look at this classic definition of mindfulness from the master, John Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.
Let’s break that down…
Awareness through paying attention
In the present moment
You can do that anytime, anywhere, at any moment, and with whatever you’re feeling. That’s the point!
A lot of us think – me included – that practicing mindfulness and paying more attention to what’s going on with us on all levels means we have to change what’s going on or we have to use a mindful practice to do something different, get better, accomplish something. Or that it’s just about meditating and being calm and all zen’d out.
So mindfulness just becomes another “should,” another to-do list chore, another thing we’re not doing enough of, and another way we’re not good enough.
And the culture of not-enoughness is not where we’re playing here.
As with all things in my life – and as I invite, encourage and occasionally heavy-handedly insist my clients do with theirs - I take what works and leave the rest. With mindfulness, that means I work with what works for me and right now, that’s “without judgment.”
I judge myself constantly. You do too. It’s a part of being human. Judgment run amok is hurtful, limiting, isolating, and a joy-killer. So, for me, anything that I can do to help me be less judge-y is a big win. Being free to think, feel, do, or not do, whatever is such a relief.
It’s a relief to know it’s okay. I’m okay. My racing thoughts are okay. My anger is okay. My lack of motivation is okay. Even my chronic busyness is okay. When I'm mindful about it.
Being okay is an act of mindfulness. “This is okay. What is happening right now is okay. I’m okay.” Inhale, exhale. Non-judgment in action. Mindfulness at work. Self-acceptance and self-love in progress.
Want to try some mindfulness? Try on not judging yourself for a moment.
What can you pay attention to in this moment and just be aware of without judging it? How can just let it all - or a part of it - just be okay? What do you notice?
You just experimented with being mindful. You practiced being okay with where you are, how you are and (gasp!) who you are right now. Nice work.
Change and growth is the next step, but start with being okay now. That’s another Jedi mind-trick of mindfulness – when we’re okay with what is, we then get to choose how, when and if we want to change what is.
In the spirit of the Life Lab, try some experiments this week and let me know how it goes.
I’ll be here. Paying attention. In this present moment. And, of course, not judging. =)