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?