This past Saturday, my mom and I drove out to Raymond (a small town about 10 minutes North of Lincoln) to attend a workshop called "Meditation in Nature" at the Common Good Farm. I've done some meditation before, in yoga class and sitting on the floor of my bedroom on the nights when I know I'm going to need some help sleeping, so I figured the workshop would be interesting. I was right...
The 12 of us, including the teacher, sat in a circle in the peaceful living room of the farm owners' home. I was totally exhausted after a late night and an early 8 mile run, so I sunk gratefully right into the big cozy couch and tried to soak in everything the teacher had to say. Now, I can't really give a blow-by-blow of the entire workshop (mostly because I don't remember what order the conversation went in...) but I can tell you what we talked about: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is something that I constantly battle with; day to day, moment to moment. I've always got a million things going on in my mind (and unfortunately for those around me, a lot of that comes out of my mouth at some point); I've always got at least 4 windows open in my internet browser, along with calculator, calendar, iTunes, etc., etc.; when I'm doing homework or reading a book, I'm thinking about the next thing that needs to get done; and when I'm listening to someone (anyone) talk, I'm almost ALWAYS formulating what I'm going to say next, rather than just listening to what they have to say. These are excellent examples of NOT being mindful; of allowing a constant stream of unconscious thinking to run through my head. I don't enjoy it. I feel so un-grounded and (dare I say it?) discombobulated when I'm doing one thing and always thinking of something else.
Ok, so after we listened to the teacher talk about mindfulness, her path to meditation, and how you can really, truly TELL when the person you're talking to isn't really listening, we got to practice mindful meditation. This was totally different from any other sort of meditation I've done. I had always heard that meditation was about clearing your mind and having a totally blank slate. Mindful meditation is not based on that. Instead, the teacher told us to focus on our breath, to open up to the noises around us, and to be AWARE of things that were coming into our minds. The first practice session was about 3 minutes long. Not so hard. The second was 8 minutes, and much more difficult - uncomfortable, even - than the first. Interesting, though, how that unconscious stream of thoughts starts and can go on unnoticed for minutes!
Next, we headed outside to do some walking meditation. We were instructed not to talk, and to give attention, without judgement, to the things we saw, heard, smelled, felt. So often (all the time, really) we see something, label it, categorize it, and move on, without really observing it or paying attention to it. So... We walked. Slowly. Very, very slowly. Slower than I've maybe ever walked. It was really hard. I felt like a bit of a weirdo walking around the farm that slowly, being "aware" of everything... Then, we stopped in an opening and sat in a circle on the ground and were asked to just sit and be mindful of our surroundings. We could pick a sense or two to pay close attention to - I picked listening and feeling. So, there I sat. Pretty soon, I felt a breeze blow across my face and through my hair... Interesting. Then the chickens started squawking... Then the sun came out from behind the clouds. I closed my eyes and just took it all in. I don't remember the last time I felt so calm, content, or at peace. It was pretty amazing. We finished our walk, went inside for treats, then headed home (after a drive through Raymond, my mom's hometown).
I've been giving this mindful thing some serious thought since then. When was the last time most of us actually LISTENED to the wind blow through the trees or chickens chattering? Sure, we all know what that stuff sounds like. We even hear it sometimes. But when do we really LISTEN? When do we stop in the middle of the hustle from our cars to work, or walking across campus to FEEL the sun on our faces? Listening is much different from hearing; looking is different from seeing; eating is not the same as really tasting; and knowing something is touching you is different from feeling.
It may not be realistic to think that I could go through life without multi-tasking, or that I can stop and give attention to everything that happens to me all day long. But, there are a few small things I can do to make my life feel fuller, richer, and to appreciate things just a little more...
First of all, I can close the 4 extra tabs I have open on my computer. Done. And I can do the same when I'm working on my homework. I can also keep a pen and paper near me so that when something I need to do (and don't want to forget to do) pops into my head, I can write it down and then continue with whatever task I'm working on.
Secondly, when I'm having a conversation with someone, I can stop thinking about what I'm going to say next and listen to what they're saying. One of the reasons people talk is because they want to be listened to. I believe that what other people have to say is important, but unless I listen to them, how will they know that? I will I hear what they're really saying to me?
Third, when I'm on my way to school and the sun pokes out from behind the clouds, I can stop for just a second and notice how it feels on my face.
If you could be more mindful of certain things in your life, what would it be???
Happy Labor Day!
All are of Common Good Farm except for the one of the baseball field. The baseball field is in Raymond, NE, and is the same one that my grandpa and great uncles played on back in the 1930's. I thought that was cool enough to post, even though it doesn't have to do with my topic today...