So you finally decided to try meditation. Everywhere you turn you hear about its benefits: reduced stress, increased energy, focus, clarity, lower blood pressure, world peace! You sit down, assume the position and turn your gaze inward…expecting a pleasant flood of peace and clarity. Instead you find chaos and confusion. WHAT!?
It’s a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. Instead of treasure you find all of the thoughts and emotions that you have been studiously avoiding all this time, through distraction and busyness. Be assured – those feelings and thoughts have been present in your inner world all along. You have just been ignoring them.
Do you stay or do you go? Staying takes courage and trust and patience.
First it is important to understand that this kind of mental confusion and noise is normal. There’s even a name for it – Monkey Mind. With time and practise you can gradually calm your monkeys and experience some of that calm and inner glow that you were hoping for.
Through regular practice – even 5 minutes a day – you will learn to observe your inner world and let it gradually settle. Calm and clarity will come, in time, from inside.
These days of Covid’s 2nd wave are teaching me lessons that I need to learn, many of them for the ump-teenth time. I am very fortunate to be healthy and comfortably retired, so I am not trying to balance working from home with childcare, eldercare or health concerns. And I am not worrying about where my next rent payment will be coming from. Thus, I have the privilege of time to read and ponder. And so I do – read and ponder.
Lately my reading has taken me through Christophe Andre’s beautiful book, “Looking at Mindfulness”, (photo in last post). Now for the pondering: When a book strikes a chord in my heart I am eager to absorb its message rather than let it just flow over me and then disappear. For me, the most effective method that I have found is illustrated journaling.
Here’s my method:
I read a chapter, underlining the words that seem to express the idea best. I stay alert to the messages that are there to help me on my journey.
I transcribe those underlined passages into my journal, commenting and summarizing as I go. I use a large-ish journal with lots of room and without lines so that I feel free to doodle, underline, add arrows and circles, diagram or draw – whatever comes to my mind or my hand. I write and draw with a pen or pencil that I love. As I write I try to focus on each word, enjoying the feeling of forming the letters carefully, and the feel of the pen on the paper. This is a mindfulness practice of its own. Of course there are also times when scribbling and scratching is the right thing for the day.
If an image presents itself to me I will sketch out the idea, looking for a way of illustrating the concept. Then, when I am ready, I will copy the sketch onto better paper and dab in some watercolour paint.
By the time I have been through this process, I have usually absorbed the concept pretty thoroughly. Now, through this blog, I have added a step as I post the sketches and then write about them.
My hope is that these postings will help to make the ideas more accessible to others, especially for the visual learners out there. I expect that this new collection will be a future resource for me, and perhaps others, when in need of reminders of lessons learned. I am very sure that I will need reminding.
(My previous illustrated journal- Life Lessons- can be found at Croneschronicles.com.)
Lately I have been reading this lovely and inspiring book – “Looking at Mindfulness” by Christophe Andre. I’d like to share some of the ideas he writes about, because I think he has so beautifully clarified why we need mindfulness so badly.
Christophe warns of the pollution of the mind that we are all exposed to in our contemporary world. He calls it “psychotoxic materialism”. Our attention is the number one commodity for sale today, and bids for it are everywhere. Ads on buses, windows, billboards, cellphones, Youtube, Facebook, notifications, bells, alarms, and a thousand other interruptions.
What is all this racket doing to our minds? Our attention is constantly being stolen from us- captured, drawn away, interrupted, segmented and fragmented.
And worse: we become addicted to this flashy, noisy and easy to digest messaging. We become unable to have anything but the shortest of thoughts of our own; especially thoughts that require introspection and sustained attention. YIKES!
The results of this polluted mental environment are stress, mental fragmentation, anxiety, boredom and circular rumination.
The antidote? Calm, slowness and continuity.
Christophe advises us to “draw on the healing powers of simplicity, calm, and single tasking…
*act calmly and gently
*do one thing at a time
*restore yourself with a dose of doing nothing
*unplug as an act of freedom”
Such simple advice and yet so challenging. That is the nature of addiction.
I have come to realize that I am almost always doing two things, or even 3 things at once.
Reading a book while eating a meal. Listening to the radio while I drive. Sewing while I watch a show. It’s like I’m afraid of what my mind will do if left without being spoon-fed with external material. God forbid that I might experience some quiet, rest or ( horrors)…boredom!
So I’ve decided to start an experiment. Sundays will be single-tasking days for me; kind of like an old fashioned Sabbath. I tried it out last weekend, with mixed success. I’m hoping that the dose of calm will give me a taste, and draw me towards wanting more during the week. I guess we’ll see.