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.
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.
A new beginning can be an opportunity for change.
Any new beginning, big or small, can serve this purpose.
Today, my clean slate is simple. It’s new. It’s a bright green iPhone 5c. 🙂
In Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin talks about the strategy of the clean slate. Any fresh start is a good time to try to adjust our habits, and there are a few habits that I think I could adjust using my new phone as a clean slate.
1. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks on my phone while in the bathtub or shower. This is not good for the phone; I am aware. And I’ve been meaning to address this habit. Now that I have a new, undamaged phone, this is a great time to start.
2. Checking my phone/texting/reading Facebook while driving. (NOT GOOD.)
3. Listening to TV shows/audiobooks while falling asleep. (I usually do this with our iPad, but this is as good a time as any to try to address this habit.)
I got a fancy new case for the new phone, and I’m going to try my best to keep it away most of the time. I think I get a nervous feeling, like I need to have my phone within arm’s reach – but I don’t; that’s what ringtones and text alerts are for. I’m also attempting to keep the phone away while I’m driving – in my purse, on the backseat of the car so I’m not tempted to reach for it.
It’s not just about keeping the phone nice and undamaged. (Though that’s part of it.) And it’s not just about driving safety. (Though that’s part of it, too!) My phone has become a mega-roadblock to mindfulness – to doing one thing at a time fully. You can’t do one thing at a time if you’re constantly checking Facebook on your phone and refreshing your e-mail. If I want to live mindfully, I need to use this clean slate as an opportunity to make some changes. (See future post on my month of mindfulness!)