When we have a thought, do we respond to it as though it were true? Do we believe that our feelings tell us what is true about the world?
Two big buzzwords these days are Emotional Dysregulation. It assumes that normal is, say, in the range of middle C, within an octave either higher or lower in pitch. If you fly up and down the keyboard, triggered throughout the day, scattered on the mind’s 88 piano keys then you often need help to keep you closer to center.
Buddhism for Today
Many of the major universities and medical centers are experimenting with “neural Buddhism” – the practice of mindfulness to help us maintain equilibrium more efficiently. Mindfulness is like yoga without the asana or posture. In mindfulness we learn to focus our attention on our breathing. From there, we try to take our attention into other things. We practice, every day, developing the capacity to observe our emotions, thoughts and physical symptoms with a return to our center, to our breath.
Early in my work, I practiced mindfully washing my hands. I did not look in the mirror at what I was seeing. I purposefully kept my gaze on my hands, watching the soap lather up between my fingers, I felt the warm water running between my fingers. over my palms, as they went through motions I had done mindlessly, thousands of time. Why put our focus on something so ordinary? To train the mind. If we can pay attention to washing our hands, we have a place to start: we can begin to develop the skills necessary to look at our thoughts, at our assumptions, at our experiences.
Mindfulness is a Daily Practice
This morning, I mindfully made breakfast for my dogs. I realized that I was applying twice as much pressure to the knife and fork as was needed. I watched the ingredients mixing together, Gently. My hands softened, I felt my face soften, I felt…content.
It was not a 90 minute yoga class, or a ten day silent retreat. Yet it had a powerful and sublime impact on the rest of my day and how I then proceeded through driving in traffic with a gentle touch, how I dialed the phone with a lighter gesture.
Start with sitting for three minutes and breathing, just breathing and noticing your thoughts, your sensations. At the end of five minutes, stop and notice how you feel.
Do it again the next day. Notice resistance. Do it anyway. Keep a log. Notice that it takes 90 consecutive days to create a new pathway in our experience. Notice that change comes in increments. Notice how you quit when your expectations are unreasonable as to what mindfulness and meditation are.
If feeling anxious or depressive, let your attention touch lightly on the feelings with friendliness. Notice that when you don’t judge or hate the uncomfortable feelings that they soften.
If you quit meditating or trying to be mindful, smile and start again the moment you realized you lost your way…without judgement. Stopping is not failing. If you cannot be consistent then congratulations, you have met your ego face-to-face. Resistance is normal. Don’t judge it; just don’t give up.