Today my practice is courage. Every day that I come to sit is a courageous act. The fear may come in form of excuses and of distractions, giving the illusion of urgency.
My partner reminded me that there is almost always at least a 5-10 second space we can take before reacting to a situation. Life-threatening matters aside, how often does a particular moment throughout the day truly require an emergency response versus how often I feel my body and mind operating in a state of emergency?
“Just because the world operates at break-neck speed doesn’t mean you have to.” he says.
The world can and will continue its pace with or without you, despite overwhelming evidence of the detrimental effects to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the human species. You don’t have to participate.
It turns out, you can practice positive thinking and count your gratitudes all the live long day but it is only slowing down and becoming present with the moment, and whatever arises within it exactly as is that is the fertile soil for growing happiness that does not hinge upon external events or circumstances. Motherhood poses a particular challenge since so often we feel like we are holding a thousand things at once, juggling responsibilities and tasks and commitments with deadlines across multiple categories; there is no shut down or even sleep mode for a mother’s brain. There are no organic spaces where there isn’t something to track, something to worry about, something to plan for, to remember to do, to fit in. And as phenomenally talented we are at multi-tasking, I have found the side-effects include a chronic state of mild discontentment. When attending to one task, the mind is working on another. When engaged in meal preparation, the mind dwells on the pending work projects, the family budget and the friend you keep meaning to check in with. When engaged in work, anxiety arises for the dwindling time afforded for personal creativity and the list of unreturned phone calls, making plans for later in the week, remembering you need to securing childcare for an upcoming event. When spending time with your child, the mind drifts toward the household chores you keep putting off, an upcoming meeting you have not prepared for, a great idea for a blog post (which maybe you will get around to writing in 3 months’ time), that one thing you need to do some internet research on, and seriously, what the hell are we going to have for dinner?
I realize that in this nothingness, in stopping the cycle – I am committing the single most radical social, political, spiritual act there is. Me. Just me. Stripped away. Halting for a moment, letting the screen fall in order to see clearly. And the illusions do fall. If I sit still long enough.
You can only know which way to go once you stop moving.
P.S. More on the effect of mindfulness on human happiness:
Matt Killingsworth: Are we happier when we stay in the moment?
David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take to Be Grateful?