Monday, March 11, 2019

In Consideration of Mindfulness

Mindfulness. It keeps popping up in the particular genre of books I am prone to read, the websites I visit, pages I follow on FB and Instagram.  The affect it has one me when I come across it is two fold, it sounds a little "zen" to me, which is not altogether a bad thing just perhaps a bit too "new age" for my taste. But at the same time I am drawn to it like water for a parched soul. In my quest to live my life with intention and authenticity, being mindful feels like a natural part of that process.

So I decided to look up the definition;

Mindfulness - noun
a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I had to laugh when I read that first part, because truth be told, I've been "mindful" all of my life. I remember my mother's frequent frustration with me and my "dawdling". "Quit your dawdling", she used to say. I've always taken life at a slower pace it seems, easily distracted by a pot of flowers or a butterfly that landed softly there. But my mother had places to go and things to do, and my penchant for "mindfulness" didn't fit well into that plan.

Maybe that's the reason why when I think about being "mindful" something about it doesn't set right with me. As a child I came to believe that my preference for moving at a slower place and taking it all in was somehow wrong, different, perhaps. It certainly irritated my mother, and so I did my best to move faster, observe less. The world itself tends to label people like me as "dreamers". My mother often remarked that "I walked around with my head in the clouds", and apparently in that respect I was "just like my father", which for whatever reason was apparently a bad thing.  It's taken me a lot of years to realize that wasn't true.

In the fast paced world that we live in that praises multi tasking over-achievers (no dissing here, it is great if you are one!) but for myself and people like me, we don't fit in. Being a highly sensitive person, multi-tasking is one of the things that can quickly send me into overload. The fact that I am a perfectionist doesn't help, either. I want to do things well, or not at all. Definitely something I struggle with. But I am at least more likely to be satisfied with the results if I am able to focus on one thing at a time. Part of that, to add to my already complicated mix, is that I am pretty sure I have ADD (self-diagnosed, but apparently obvious). If I am in the middle of something and I get interrupted, there is a good chance that whatever I was working on won't get finished, at least, not in the preferred time frame. Interrupt me again, and by the end of the day I may have begun five or six different tasks and completed none, which just leaves everyone frustrated. Knowing my limits, I've learned to set low expectations. Thankfully I don't work outside of the home, so that makes things much easier. In my carefully curated single-tasking environment, I accomplish a lot in a day, at least by my standards.  Most people would probably think I am lazy, but that isn't true at all. There are actually more things that I would like to do in a single day than I have time for, and because I know my limits, I choose carefully.

But I am at least vaguely aware that I often become so obsessed with the task at hand that I completely shut out everything and everyone around me. That was how I survived in the corporate world for as long as I did, I think. But it also left with me with a bit of a reputation for not being very "friendly". I get it. I AM an introvert, so interacting with people doesn't typically make the top of the list. But the driving force behind my perceived cold persona was the simple fear that if I allowed anything to distract me the job wouldn't get done. Maybe they would have preferred that I smiled and said "Good morning", but little did they know that in doing so, I wouldn't make my 10:00 a.m. deadline, if at all. It does not take much to get me off track. I wonder now at times how I survived.  Actually, I know how, but it wasn't healthy and I'll just leave that right there.

All that to say that as this keeps coming up, I've decided to give it my attention. Even though I've grown more comfortable with my "dawdling through life", even preferring it, I think deep down I still seen myself as somehow flawed, and I want to move past that. I do want to be "mindful" of my surroundings.  To live in such a way that allows time to stop and observe nature and to take in all the beauty that the world holds for me. But at the same time I also want to become more aware of how I present myself to those around me, especially the people I love, and not become so engrossed in tasks that I am not mindful of them. That may be challenging, as I suppose I will have to develop some way of staying on task while still remaining open to interruptions. All of this naturally set me on the hunt for resources and that was when I came across the following. To be honest I don't really even remember now where I found it, or I would share. I think it may have been in a magazine article when I was at the book store last week, so the next time I am there I will see if I can find it again and link it.

You have probably been told that it takes twenty one days to form a habit, and while there is no magic number of days before an action become automatic, you do need to set realistic goals and get started. Start a mindful routine.

By planning your routine so that you can insure it actually gets done - start small, and as soon as it becomes mundane, add something new!  Try new breathing techniques, stretch, or stop pressing the snooze button.

If you reach the end of a few weeks and it hasn't become a habit, don't be hard on yourself try a longer timeline to embed your mindful routine into your life.  Changing parts of your life is a process, one that you need to keep working on.


Start a mindful routine.  Write down three mindful activities that you can fit into your every day.  Now do them!

I love that it acknowledges that habits are often hard formed, and encourages you not to be too hard on yourself if it takes awhile. It is a process, which typically translates to SLOW. I can live with slow progress! And on that note, here are the three ways that I would like to practice being more mindful.

1.) Accept myself as I am. Eliminate or redefine the world "dawdler". I do prefer to live life at a slower pace, and that is ok. Since I can remember being this way since I was a child, it is obviously an intentional component of my personality that is God breathed, (Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.) I AM fearfully and wonderfully made!

2.) With that knowledge, and with consideration for others, live life at a slower pace. Do not allow myself to be rushed, at least not as the norm. If others are frustrated by my slower pace, unless it is merited, allow that to be on them. Obviously I won't allow my pace to make us late or negatively impact others, but I won't be rushed, either.  This could be challenging, and perhaps I won't be able to move at as slow a pace as I would prefer, but slower than the world dictates, for sure.

3.) Practice grounding and breathing, especially when I feel rushed or interrupted and am growing frustrated with forgetfulness and tasks undone. I once heard a pastor say that if you are consciously aware of your breath that the very act of breathing sounds much like the name of God, Yahweh. Breathe in, "Yah", breathe out "weh". I've never forgotten that and I have used it many times as a way to combat panic attacks and anxiety. Any time I get interrupted in the middle of a task it creates anxiety, primarily because I am afraid that I am not going to remember what I was doing and things aren't going to get done. But if I can find a way in those moments to become aware of my breathing, to bring the name of God in an out and let it fill my mind and soul, maybe, just maybe it will help me to respond in love and less in frustration. I never want anyone to feel less important than the tasks I am engaged in. There is no work on this earth that is more important than relationship.  If you're interested I found a lovely article on this, The Name of God and the Sound of Our Breathing.

Everybody draws their very first breath,
with Your name upon their lips. 
Every one of us is born of dust, 
but come alive with heaven’s kiss 

The name of God is the sound of our breathing, 
Hallelujahs rise on the wings of our hearts beating!

Anyway, if you've read this far and you're still with me, thank you. I feel as though I am beginning to ramble a bit, so I'll close for now. I also realized today that I never posted my goals for March or did a re-cap of how I did in February. I was down with the flu for a week so things got a little off. I briefly considered going ahead and writing that post, but I think I am just going to let it slide for this month and I'll regroup in April.

Until then my friends, may you live with an awareness today that He is in the very air that we breathe!