Saturday, September 20, 2014

Getting Back on Track

It's been hard finding the time to sit every day. I have let work take over my life, and I am feeling the effect. The spaciousness that used to permeate my days has gone. Instead, weariness and restlessness. It is as if my constantly stimulated mind is on overdrive. I then think about all the others whose demanding lives are also playing tricks on them. Care workers who sometimes hold two jobs to make ends meet, and function on 3 to 4 hours of sleep every night. Exhausted new moms whose new babies won't stop crying, and with no grandma nearby to help out. Med residents on duty 36 hour straight. Sandwiched daughters spread too thin between their teenage children and their ailing parents.  Young lawyers trying hard to climb up the corporate ladder . . . Very few of us can escape the pressure from living in our task-driven, disenfranchised culture. Such busy-ness is exacting a price. Many of us end up being super-stressed, anxious, depressed, with no end in sight. 

It is ironic that neuroscience is coming up with more and more studies showing the power of mindfulness practice to reduce such stress. We know mindfulness can save our health, both mental and physical. It can help us find more joy. It can repair our frayed telomeres. The problem is how to find the time and motivation to practice every day. Superseding the time issue, is the need to feel compelled enough to make the necessary effort. Looking back on my years as a meditator, I can see a pattern. Times of intense practice, followed by waning in my dedication, then having to suffer the consequences, until the realization one day of needing to get back on track. This is where I am at today. The violence done to myself from not giving my mind enough time to settle every day, is now to intense to be ignored. I love myself too much! 

Sitting right now, I let myself feel the pain from always being 'on'. Tight throat, stomach in a knot, tiredness, shallow breath . . . The central nervous system needs to switch from sympathetic to parasympathetic mode. I need to make mindfulness more of a priority every day, and I need to find the time. Now, time is an interesting notion, particularly in regards to practice. No matter how busy I may be with work, the truth is there is still ample opportunities for mindfulness. First, starting in the morning with allowing enough time to sit. When is my first work meeting? How soon do I need to set the alarm? How about foregoing checking and answering emails first thing? Of course, mindfulness is not just about sitting once every day. It needs to be woven into work, and all my other activities. One simple switch  I can make is to cut down on all the times I spend throughout the day surfing the web, whenever I feel I need a break. How about using those periods to quietly sit or practice walking meditation? Good intentions, that need to be acted upon. 

How are you doing with your practice? Do you struggle like I do? 

8 comments:

  1. I have found it useful to sometimes take a day with no emails, no texting etc. I warn people, and put a message on my email

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been falling behind myself with a marriage, so I heard something somewhere that I find interesting. One's practice that was brought on by suffering... got them to comfort level to charge on with life, but suffering always finds a back door to remind you that you have to return. That is probably the most important impetus to get back on it, before you have to.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good post. I've been letting the distractions pull me away from practice too. All good suggestions. Thanks for the prod!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for sharing. I am fortunate that part of my work involves teaching mindfulness and also being part of a community of practice. Without those two elements, I most likely would have dropped out a long time ago. Community is what helps to keep it going. Still, that alone has not been enough to maintain my practice at a level deep enough to attain relative calmness. Writing this post was such a gift. There is a lot to be said for 'confessing' to a more public forum :) I wish you to sustain your renewed enthusiasm for practice.

    ReplyDelete
  5. As I finished reading your poignant post that echoed in many ways my present situation, I glanced at your favorite blog list and saw UCSD Mindfulness Center. As fortune would have it, I live two blocks away, I signed up for the 8-week mindfulness program and my first session was last Thursday. It's a small group of 13 people and it is just what I needed to get back to daily practice. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. this is such a good practice too… not being online so much. for me I couple this with getting outside whenever possible to connect silently (I'm silent) with nature.. the wind, animals and lapping water on the edge of a pond provide all the music… so much color this time of year even as the trees disrobe bearing their dark bones. I too go through periods of intense/committed sitting practice and other times when for a variety of reasons it is just difficult or not possible. Even when in the car, I pay attention not just to the cars on the road (when I'm driving) but glimpses of mist rising if it is morning, flashes of colorful leaves. The practice is assisted and strengthened by sitting, but it is truly what happens as we interact with the world around us, our relationships with people, nature and our own inner worlds. I hope you will be gentle with yourself… this is just part of life, the waves rush in and out then smooth to glass for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the post! I also found it difficult to continue sitting on a dayly basis after our child was born. He gets (us) up very early in the morning and ruined my morning meditation routine. So, now I try to sit before I sleep or after I get him to bed at around 7 p.m. Sometimes it is still difficult, because I have to work in the evening, but I try to meditate every day. If there is little time, I just cut down meditation to 15 minutes and do the practice like this.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post. So many of us live those difficulties. Making our practice core to our lives, activities (trivial and strategic), words... Among other approaches, I try to remember that "no mud, no lotus".

    ReplyDelete

Loading...