I’m taking a 6-week mindfulness course.
We started by practicing sitting for a few minutes a day and attending to our breath, slowing our minds, being present to what is.
It’s not my first time meditating. I know the techniques for breathing, the strategies for sitting and focusing. But the thing about meditating is that more knowledge isn’t what helps. Practice is what changes you. You just have to sit… and breathe… and sit… and breathe…
– – –
Our reflection question for the week was simple: How was your practice this week? Our teacher invited us to share a story of our experience, to express challenges or benefits we were noticing.
I stared at the question, feeling a flood of honesty in response.
How was my practice, really?
Should I admit that some days, I found it almost impossible to sit still for all the caffeine and stress in my system? Should I admit that I’d shed tears of anxiety over future plans and financial instability? Or what about the reality that all kinds of things — unexpected traffic, the constant rain, spats with my partner — were leaving me cranky and scattered.
I’d even gotten an extra opportunity to practice when I attending a meditation workshop during my organization’s staff retreat. But even equipped with all my knowledge and techniques, I wasn’t really able to drop into the practice and breathe. I was distracted and could barely keep my eyes closed. I could barely hold on to my anchor words breathing in, breathing out. breathing in, breathing out.
After the workshop, many of my co-workers told me how relaxing and rewarding they’d found it. I could only frown in disappointment that I’d let myself get carried away with thoughts and judgments.
– – –
So, of course, I answered the question honestly, and shared that I find it easy to practice mindfulness when life is easy, and hard to practice mindfulness when life is hard.
And, of course, hard times are when I need to be mindful the most.
So, this week I’ll try again. But this time I’ll come empty-handed (or empty-minded, I suppose). No knowledge, no techniques, no judgments. Just breathing in, breathing out. breathing in, breathing out.