I’m not having a very mindful fortnight.
For the past few weeks, my mind has been all over the place. I’ve been catching up on The Newsroom so I can watch the third season, which I have on loan from the library. I discovered two new games on my phone – Trivia Crack and 1010. (They are awesome and amazing and addictive and I highly recommend NEVER downloading them; I’ve already made myself delete them.) I’ve also been very distracted and caught up in my head about the adoption wait.
However, there have been some efforts at balance: a reunion with my college friends in New York (#heart) and alternating between reading Rising Strong and The Story Of The Lost Child (#mind). And there’s more awesomeness to come – an evening with Brene Brown tonight (!!!) and some quality family time this weekend.
Writing this is helping me to realize that my #soul nourishment is lacking – and that some #soul food will likely help me get to a more mindful place.
One of my AmeriCorp*NCCC projects was trail-building in a natural reserve in Ohio. Our work days were long and physically demanding. We worked from eight to ten hours each day, hacking and digging and smoothing and building.
Then, at nighttime, I would dream for eight hours about using pulaskis and pick-axes and rakes. I’d wake up in the morning so annoyed at my subconscious. I mean, I was working really hard ALL DAY LONG – shouldn’t my dreams be a time when I could sit back and relax?
I thought of this today because last night I dreamed about harvesting husk cherries, which is what I did for three hours on Saturday afternoon. Even when I’m not asleep, I keep catching my mind drifting – I imagine myself scooping up a handful of husk cherries off the ground, popping them out of their husks to make sure they’re ripe and unblemished, and dropping them into my bucket. Over and over, and over again.
While I laugh about having my dreams full of monotonous physical tasks, I really find this kind of work incredibly rewarding and enriching. I love farming with Tee. It’s fun to complete a task alongside Tee or a friend, but I also love just working on a task by myself. Sometimes I listen to a podcast or an audiobook while I work, or sometimes (like yesterday, when my phone died) I work in silence. A task like that – repetitive, mindless – helps me to clear my mind and to calm my body. It can be a meditative ritual for me. It’s a naturally mindful experience – your mind is pulled into the present moment by the task at hand.
I’ve talked to friends who’ve tried meditating and have found it difficult to sit still for extended periods or to quiet their mind; the Meditative Power of Repetitive Tasks seems like a good response to that kind of struggle. You’re doing something that needs to get done – your mind (at least, part of it) is engaged in the task at hand – and repeating the same task over and over allows you to obtain a quiet, calm mind. Which, if your mind is as naturally bouncy and wild and hectic as mine is, is something to strive for.
Sometimes I’ll be at the farmers market, helping a customer or re-stocking our table of veggies, and I’ll have a Moment.
These Moments are difficult to describe, but I’m going to give it a try.
The Moment will feel incredibly peaceful and serene. I’ll get a feeling that a sense of peace and serenity is washing over me. I’ll feel like at that moment, I am exactly where I am meant to be and I’m doing exactly what I am meant to be doing.
I love these moments. I tend to move very slowly and carefully when I am having one of these moments; I don’t want to scare it away. I also tend to not talk about these moments, especially while I’m in the midst of one, for the same reason. I try to be as still as I can, within whatever I am doing at that moment, and just allow the moment to continue.
Lately I notice these moments frequently during the farmers market, but I have them at other times, too. Sometimes I’ll have a Moment when I’m just at home, reading or relaxing or cleaning up the house. Sometimes I’ll have a Moment when I’m at work, in the middle of a therapy session with a child.
I’ve read a little bit about Flow. In Mihal Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he describes flow as ” a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.” He talks a lot about people at their professions being in flow – like an artist who is “in the groove” or a surgeon being “in the zone.” When people are in Flow, they’re totally immersed in what they’re doing.
What Csikszentmihalyi describes resonates with me, which is why I sometimes refer to my moments as Moments Of Flow. I think that these Moments Of Flow are indicators that I am living in the moment and being mindful. I also think that these Moments usually occur when my heart, soul, mind, and body feel nourished and strong. Which is another motivation to keep myself balanced – so I can have more and more Moments Of Flow!
My day job, as previously mentioned, is as a school-based therapist at a school for kids with special needs.
In addition to meeting with kids for individual therapy, I run between three and five group therapy sessions each week. We – by which I mean myself and the other school social workers on my team – like to pick a theme for each month month of the year. I think this helps us to be focused and intentional in our work; group therapy with kids is very different from group therapy with adults, which is generally (though not always) a little more open.
This month, during our school’s summer session, we are talking about mindfulness; mindfulness is the art of focusing one’s attention on the present moment in an intentional and accepting way. For our first week of groups, we read a wonderful children’s book – Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda – to help the students understand what mindfulness is and how it can be a happiness booster.
Talking about mindfulness with my students helps me to be mindful, too. I have a lot of not-mindful tendencies. Playing on my phone. Doing two things at once. Angsting about the future. I am hoping that this month of focusing on mindfulness with my clients will help me to be more mindful myself.