Jane's Mindfulness Journal


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Beyond Dish Washing-Mindfulness Continued

"The Soul Always Knows What to do to Heal Itself. The Challenge is to Silence the Mind"

Now that we've all had a go at washing dishes with mindfulness and seen that it is in no way as simple as it sounds, we can move on to further understanding and practical applications of mindfulness in our daily lives.
Firstly however, after a comment I received regarding my previous post which had led to some misunderstanding, I would like to clarify for all of you, so I am posting here the comment, sent by Avik, as well as my reply, in the hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the dish washing exercise for all of you.

"I have been reading your blogs (what a terrible word!) with great pleasure, and now relate to the one about Living in the Present.........Like anything else of value, when taken to extremes it loses some of its lustre. When trying to fit Washing Dishes into this scheme of things, I think that kind of blew the fuse. How can you enjoy washing dishes, that mindless, energy sapping fruitless task? This is a typical time when one can skip into another world of thoughts, memories, future expectations. Yes, I believe that there is a place for these in life, apart from most of the time living in the present in an enjoyable way. This is what distinguishes us from the animals. As long as one does not transfer the main spring of life into the realm of wishful thinking, I think there is much pleasure in little episodes of reflection and remembering and designing plans for future projects. Let us not lose these jewels altogether, even while recognizing that they are not a substitute being Here and NOw."
...and my reply:
I think you miss the point. No one says you have to enjoy washing the dishes. If you begin to think about enjoying it, again, you are not thinking about the act of washing the dishes. This is just an example any way, as to how people can learn to be mindful of each moment….be completely in the moment. The idea is just, every once in awhile, to focus completely on the task at hand…not in order to enjoy it, but in order to experience it fully. I actually tried this over the weekend with something else which I hate doing and try to get it over as quickly as possible to move on to something else. Folding clothes. And it turned out that when I completely focused on it, I found great tranquility in the exercise, much as I do in any other form of meditation. The whole idea of completely focusing is to bring us to a point where we can move on to using this concentration the moment in our meditation practices.
The act itself is all we need to focus on…not to involve any feelings of enjoying, boredom….no form of judgement or thought, just paying attention to what is happening and focusing on it….I agree with what you say about taking things to the extreme and certainly finding myself thinking of anything but the traffic I am driving in to work each morning, is a wonderful way to get through the drive each morning. But every once in awhile I become completely mindful of the drive and then find that it also can become almost meditative in effect…I look at the sky, see the buildings, read the bumper stickers, everything which is part of the drive itself. This is all the post was trying to get at…Dreaming is wonderful and a very pleasant way of getting away from the present which is not always as pleasant as we would like it to be…but learning to focus is the point here…
I hope this explains the idea a little better…if not, I’m open for more discussion
Nice to hear from you…hope life is treating well “every moment of every day”

OK, now back to some practical ideas about bringing mindfulness into your everyday life...the idea is to try, as often as possible during the day, to really be completely in the moment, no matter what is happening at that particular moment. So here are a couple of further ideas to try which may help bring you more into the now.

  • Once every hour, stop whatever you are doing for 1-3 minutes and bring your focus, your awareness to your body and any sensations you have-feel your body completely from head to toe, inside and out. Allow the sensations to flow over you for a minute or so, with no comment or judgement. Just feeling. Then bring your awareness to the room around you, to your surroundings, and take stock as well. What do you see, notice, sense that you didn't before you became aware. And finally, bring your focus to your breathing. Just notice the inhale and exhale. Is your breathing full and deep, or shallow and weak. Don't judge, just notice. Do the above, once every hour (set a timer or put a note on your computer at work) for a few days. Just flow with the exercise. This will help prepare you for the next step in using mindfulness.

  • Raise your awareness anew every time you eat. What you will find is that every apple, slice of toast, or meal in your favorite restaurant has its own unique, subtle qualities that often slip by, unnoticed, when you eat habitually or in a distracted state of mind.
    If you can bring yourself back to the present moment for just an instant and pause to see how your food aligns with you deep in your core, you'll find you have an another unfailing tool for knowing what the moment is truly about.

  • Another idea you may like to try is a Walking Meditation. Try out this link Walking Meditation and see if it is something you may enjoy. I find it sometimes quite difficult, but if I stick with it, get enormous pleasure and tranquility from the exercise. (You might enjoy this website as well and you can even sign up free for a daily insight as well as a monthly newsletter. There is lots of interesting stuff here, not just about yoga. The link is on the sidebar of my blog as well...check it out!)

Now, I'd like to try working with you using a very simple technique for beginning mindfulness meditation per se. Not just an exercise for become more aware in the day to day, but the actual beginnings of a meditation practice. Once you've tried the following, and would like to delve even more into this type of meditation, find more insights and practical use of this form of meditation, a good starting point is a book mentioned in my last post by Jon Kabat-Zinn "Mindfulness Meditation for Everyday Life"...check it out of any of 1000's of websites on the subject which you can Google and start going through them.

And now...let's begin...this is the type of meditation practice which is done even with large audiences during teachings by Tenzin Palmo, and I quote part of it from her book "Reflections on a Mountain Lake"...

"Now, I would like us all to sit quietly for about fifteen minutes. If your mind has strayed away, bring it back into the room. Then bring it into the body. If there are sensations in the body, just note them. Don't comment on whether you like them or dislike them. Just know that they are present. Know the body. When you have become settled in knowing the body, bring your attention to the in-going and out-going of the breath. Just be one with the breath as it flows in and flows out. Don't try to make the breath longer or shorter. This is not really concentrating, in the sense that we are not looking at the breath from a distance. We are just becoming one with the breath, knowing it as it comes in and as it goes out. When thoughts arise in the mind, don't be concerned. It is the nature of the mind to have thoughts. Don't give them any energy. Don't get caught up in them. Ignore them. If people try to attract our attention and we ignore them, eventually they will give up and go away. Thoughts may come and go, but we are not interested in them. We just bring the attention back again and again to breathing in and breathing out. We will do this for about fifteen minutes. When sounds occur, they are just sounds, just vibrations moving across space. No problem. Sounds are naturally there, and it is natural for the ear to hear them. Don't give them any energy. Just go back to the breath."

  • If you find this difficult to do for 15 minutes, a suggestion for beginning this kind of practice from Jon Kabat-Zinn is to begin by counting the breath in series of 10. Count each breath as 1 count (you can either count inhale 1, exhale 2...or inhale + exhale as 1 count, whatever you like). When you reach ten, go back to one. If you get confused in the middle, go back to one each time. This gives a little bit more focus on the breath for beginners and makes it somewhat simpler to move along.
  • In addition, do not try to EMPTY the mind. Try to learn to be stronger than the mind...to rise above it...only then can we begin learning to hear what our heart/soul/intutition is telling us.
  • Don’t meditate until you are bored. Then you will not feel like doing it again…stop while it is still pleasant so you will look forward to doing it next time and as soon as possible, instead of viewing it as a chore. Like reading a good book and having to put it down at the best part…you can’t wait to get back to it again.

I have concentrated all the recent posts on mindfulness together as well so you can easily refer back to them for more clarification.

I know this has been a long post but look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. I am thinking of now moving on to a discussion of the 5 Reiki Prinicples as noted above in the description of the blog...that is my next direction for this blog.

Love to you all


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