Sometimes you’re so deeply entrenched in some distracting, non-mindful state that it can be hard to extract yourself. You might be stressed, anxious, angry or just distracted. Even if you’re aware of it, pulling yourself back out can be very hard. This past Monday started with an emotional morning for my son, he didn’t want to school and I was forced to be the bad guy and make him go. As we battled, I managed to stay disconnected enough to not be angry and he was so mired in not wanting to go that he was sad and fearful. On that day, I was blessed with mindfulness and he was a victim of his emotions. (Emotions are fine, good and valid… I made sure to tell him so.) Without making him stop having emotions, we got him to just breathe through things. It wasn’t pretty, but with an audible intake of breath and then an audible release, he was able to move one step at a time to the car so we could leave. One breath. Just this. It wasn’t easy for him and I’m proud that he did manage to push through it. Within 5 minutes on the road, he was back into himself, accepting of his fate and unfortunately trapped with me and my lecturing.
I don’t always get to be blessed with a detached, stoic self. This past weekend, I watched a documentary, “Do you trust this computer“, which got me thinking about the state of politics and general social dis-ease as it’s affected by technology. Sadly they ended their movie on the negative things that have happened, rather than opening with that… so, of course, it’s what I dwelt on. My day had a nagging anxiety hanging behind all of my actions. I soldiered on, but it wasn’t until I really stopped and looked that I realized that I was letting it push my buttons and exacerbate my stress. I couldn’t just shrug it off, or detach myself once it was there. While I can’t say that it fixed me completely at the time, I did stop everything, move to the basement and let a guided meditation app walk me through 10 minutes of clearing my brain. It did calm the anxiousness, it did help de-stress, but I had to take actions. Much like my son’s audible breathing, I had to take additional steps to calm my mind.
My third incident recently, sadly doesn’t have as awesome an ending. I was at work and had big plans to finish several tasks, but I also had so many great internet distractions to observe. Knowing that I had a looming deadline coupled with the need to finish some of my day-to-day responsibilities, I still found myself opening a new tab in a browser and either looking at funny cat gifs, flipping through project ideas on Pinterest or distractedly watching movie trailers for this summers big blockbusters. I know step one of repairing this would be to just close those browser tabs, or maybe disconnect from the internet. Unfortunately when the boredom monster comes to play and when I’m being a master procrastinator I have the hardest time finding some mindful practice that pulls me back. This is my biggest demon to overcome, and it happens both professionally and personally. I’ll say the best answer is probably to step away from a computer or device that causes the distraction, do something “analog” that gets me thinking or focused, then come back. Sometimes this can be a walk, more often it works best if I can just take 10-15 minutes and journal in my physical composition book. If you have a suggestion, I’m open to that as well.
Mindfulness, for me, isn’t a constant state. I’m often just “Mindfullish” and it hangs around the periphery of my awareness. I’m OK with that, I live in a world full of emotional things and I appreciate those exciting moments that are buried within a passionate reaction. I tend to expect that being fully mindful, monk style, means that its always level and there aren’t the spikes of highs and lows so I balk at pursuing it. I go back to my mindful practice as a toolbox, or whenever possible, as just a practice. The two examples above are pulling tools out of the toolbox. When I’m breathing while taking a walk outside, or when I’m soft gazing down the road while driving, I’m practicing my ability to disconnect from those emotions and just be. If I can get good at being present in the non-emotional moments then I can reference back to that when things do get emotionally charged.
The balance of practice in calm times and the actions I can take when charged up is what mindfulness is all about for me. If I can’t detach and “just be” when there is nothing to distract me then how can I expect to step back from excitement.