Day to Day Meditative Awareness
As many of you are aware, we have just been consumed with a whole month of holidays that came out in the middle of the week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays). Some of us feel like we’re a little topsy-turvy, adjusting and readjusting to the calendar. What day it is it today? We’re wondering, “Is it a Sunday or is it a Friday, is it before Shabbos or before a holiday? It’s been hectic. At times like these, and at times when we live in the 21st-century rapidly moving, ever-changing, COVID-influenced existence, we need to become more present and mindful in our day-to-day lives.
As you know, I have been personally and professionally inspired and encouraged by the myriad benefits of meditation and self-regulation techniques. However, many of my clients are so distracted by the digital interruptions, upsetting news, and life in general, they’re unable to meditate even for a few moments. For such people, I have created short meditations and techniques. Sometimes, I will reduce the length of their meditation to three minutes or even one minute to get their meditative “foot in the door.” There are some clients who cannot even attend for a minute without feeling “unsuccessful” at it. However, worse than feeling “unsuccessful” at meditating, are the self-criticism and pre-judgments about it. In our common cultural “psyche,” we might imagine a quintessential “meditator” as one who has racked up tens of thousands of hours meditating, learning at retreats with a monk or guru, sitting in some (seemingly uncomfortable) position, without movement, using incense, images, singing bowls, cymbals, or mantras.
Anyone familiar with this blog knows these embellishments are unnecessary. All one needs to do is choose an object of focus or a sensation and pay attention. That’s it! So, even though there’s no such thing as a “successful” meditation (in the script, I even use the phrase “gently and nonjudgmentally return your attention to your breath”), beginners still judge their efforts. Thoughts come up like, “Am I doing this right? “This is too hard for me,” “I really rot at this activity,” “I’ll never be able to meditate,” etc. These attitudes are not only self-defeating, but they are totally erroneous. I have created a three-phrase model that, doing it, you will have a “successful” meditation. It kind of reminds me of the Latin, “Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered.” Mine goes like this:
I paid attention.
All you need to do is try that! Once you’ve done that, it’s a successful meditation. However, for those who claim they cannot do that, I tell them to start by paying close attention to one activity throughout the day that they repeatedly do; or to pay attention to a few activities throughout the day with greater intention. For instance:
When brushing your teeth, can you notice the following?
How long you stay focused on one tooth.
The sensation of the toothpaste on your teeth.
The brush touching the teeth.
The care that you’re taking.
The flavor of the toothpaste.
The fresh, clean mouthfeel afterwards, etc.
What about when you’re washing your hair? Are you allowing yourself to enjoy the sensation of the lather? Do you notice the aroma of the shampoo? How do you rinse it out of your hair? Are you careful to remove all of it? Do you notice the squeaky-clean feeling afterward or the smooth feeling because you used conditioner?
What about mindful cooking in the kitchen? I have noticed over the last few years that I have had many fewer accidents in the kitchen. By just slowing down, staying in the moment, becoming more mindful, aware, and present, I am able to prevent such mishaps as burning myself, cutting a finger, or breaking a glass, etc., I also notice that I cut things more accurately, more carefully, and with greater intention. I am also preparing food with more joy! For me, cooking has become more artful and more pleasurable than a mere, pragmatic task.
If you feel that you’re a “meditation mess,” (and as I said above, there’s very little reason to feel that), get your foot in the door of meditation by trying to stay present in any activity throughout the day. Try to just notice the second to second and minute to minute awareness of your sensations and experience in the moment.
In honor of individuals (like me or anyone living in our ADD-like world) for whom a lengthy meditation is a challenge, I am sharing my “Three-Minute Refreshing Pause” meditation as your gift this month of October. CLICK HERE for your download.
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