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Friday, March 8, 2013

Slow Pitch



I would love to tell you all about week one of my Mindfulness course, but the first rule about Mindfulness Club is: You don't talk about Mindfulness Club!

I can, however, share a few things with you.  First, if you want to read a bit about the practice of mindfulness, I recommend the 'text book' we are using: Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is really one of the pioneers of bringing Mindfulness into the mainstream and into the field of medicine.

I am finding meditation just as difficult as I knew I would.  I am hard-wired to be goal-oriented, so the concept of doing something without a goal is hard for me to wrap my brain around.  My thoughts also run a mile a minute and getting them to slow down is tough.  But I am told that this is true for most people.

I found this passage in Kabat-Zinn's book and I thought it was really powerful:

"Many people are greatly relieved when they come back after practicing meditation on their own during their first week in the stress clinic and discover that they were not the only ones who found their thoughts cascaded through their mind like a waterfall, completely beyond their control.  They are reassured to learn that everybody in the class has a mind that behaves in this way.  It is just the way the mind is."

"This discovery amounts to a revelation for many of the people in the stress clinic.  It becomes the occasion of or sets the stage for a profound learning experience that many claim is the most valuable thing they get out of their meditation training, mainly the realization that they are not their thoughts. This discovery means that they can consciously choose to relate or not to relate to their thoughts in a variety of ways that were not available to them when they were unaware of this simple fact."

Also, he explains meditation this way:

Letting go of our thoughts, however, does not mean suppressing them...What matters is whether you are aware of your thoughts and feelings during meditation and how you handle them.  Trying to suppress them will only result in greater tension and frustration and more problems, not in calmness and peace.

I would never claim to find any of this easy, but at least I am starting to understand it on an intellectual level.

We also did the famous Raisin Experiment

This experience inspired me to do a little experiment with myself.  I have been aware, for a long time, that my obsession with task completion and efficiency is not always a good thing.  It comes at the expense of quality sometimes.  I've gotten away with it most of my life, but it's started to catch up with me.  I have been having trouble staying on task lately because I just find I now have so many distractions competing for my attention.  If I am interrupted in the middle of something, I sometimes never get back to it.  As an example, my billing/admin for clients has multiple steps.  I have to put through the charge, if they paid by credit card, record the authorization number, fill in the monthly spreadsheet, upload session notes, create an invoice, send the invoice to the client, write a report - if needed, and then send the report to the fertility clinic.  If my phone rings or an email comes in that I have to respond to while I'm in the middle of this process, sometimes I forget a step.  Yes, I should probably make a checklist to go through for each client.  I think I'll do that!

I can also tell myself something like, "We're out of paper towel, I better go write it on the grocery list." Yet before I do it, I'll have 50 other thoughts and I will forget to do it.  Then I'll do the same thing 4 more times before I finally remind myself and actually do it.

But taking the minimal amount of time to do EVERYTHING and always trying to speed through life has other consequences.  Simply from forgetting to zip up my pockets or purses has led me to lose a pair of sunglasses, my cell phone, and a lip gloss all over the span of 2 weeks.  I am just not paying attention and things are LITERALLY falling through the cracks.

I may be getting a lot done, but I'm also NOT getting a lot done.  So all this efficiency isn't so efficient after all!  Believe me, it's not like I haven't known this intellectually for a long time, it's just that I kind of felt powerless to it, like there was nothing I could really do to change this about myself.

So.  Yesterday was a home day with no client appointments.  I decided to see what happened if I did not try to rush through anything.  If I tried to focus on the task at hand, and only that task, until I was certain it was completed.  As always,  I had a list of things I wanted to get done, so I was curious to see how things would turn out if I slowed down.  After all, Kabat-Zin points out:

"It is remarkable how liberating it feels to be able to see that your thoughts are just thoughts and that they are not "you" or "reality".  For instance, if you have the thought that you have to get a certain number of things done today and you don't recognize it as a thought but act as if it's "the truth," then you have created a reality in that moment in which you really believe that those things must all be done today."

I started after I dropped off the girls.  I slowly ate my breakfast and read ENTIRE articles in the newspapers that caught my interest.  Then I started on my admin work.  After getting it all done I went through my email inbox and returned all the emails that have been lingering there - which I always tell myself I'm going to get to, but never do.  Then I cleaned my desk, a process which made me realize I need to renew my CPR certification ASAP.  I emailed the woman I go to for training to book a re-cert session.  Then - even though there was still a list of things I wanted to get done - I put in my Body Scan meditation CD I am supposed to do each day (which got interrupted by the girls' when they got home with Adam from the dentist early on Tuesday, and didn't get done at all on Wednesday because I had client sessions all day), and did the whole thing.

Then I took care of a few more work/professional matters via email, and tried not to worry about the fact that I'd hoped to get out to do errands sooner than was going to be the case.  Then I left the house to do the errands.  I carefully made sure I had everything I needed, although I still managed to forget my sunglasses.  In my defense, it was raining when I left and in typical Toronto weather fashion, the sun came out 5 minutes after I left the house.

When I went to park the car, the only thing available on my usual street was a small space between 2 cars.  While I think I'm a pretty awesome driver (don't we all think that?) I am an abysmal parallel parker.  If only a tight spot is available, I often won't even attempt it.  I CAN do it, but it takes me a very long time to manoeuvre in, and if there are cars waiting to get past me, I get very anxious.  This time, I just said to myself, "Take all the time you need."  And I did it.  When I returned to the car later I noticed I had one wheel up on the side walk, but hey, I got in the spot AND I got out without dinging either car beside me!  How?  By taking my time!  Really this SAVED me a lot of time, because had I not taken this spot, I likely would have been driving around trying to find another one for quite a while.

When I got home I put away the groceries, taking my time to put them into the packed fridge in ways that wouldn't mean cabbages and oranges rolling out and attacking the next person to open the door.  Then I sat down to eat lunch and took my time even though there were many more things to do before going to pick up the girls.

Then I wrote this post.  And I even spell checked it, which obviously I don't usually take the time to do.

And so?  The only thing I didn't get done that I'd hoped was a yoga session.  But in all truthfulness, I'd say 3/4 times I plan to do yoga, I run out of time anyways.  Fortunately, my foam roller seems to be helping me much more than yoga usually does, so I've been feeling pretty great lately.  And in the end, I think I got a lot of other things done, and done better, than I would have if I'd speeded through the day as per usual. 

Hopefully this is a 'teachable moment' I can look back on in the future when I'm tempted to try and be Speedy Gonzales again.

Only one measly act of kindness this week: The mailman delivered a letter to us meant for someone else in the neighbourhood several blocks away.  Instead of just dropping it back in the nearest mailbox, I walked out of my way after dropping off the girls yesterday and hand delivered it to their mailbox.  I know, it's nothing major.  Hopefully I'll do better next week.

Have a lovely SLOW weekend.