A personal story to share...Apr 01, 2020
Life is exhausting at times.
Especially when we’re dealing with a real global health threat.
Especially when we're dealing with other new things, like... social distancing, "safer at home" orders, homeschooling kids, working virtually, etc.
It’s all hard.
Knowing how to run our mind is important all the time, but it's even more important when we're facing difficult times.
This is when the skill of managing your attention becomes even more helpful.
For those trying to work with your thinking, my quick advice to you is to be much MUCH gentler with yourself.
Please give up on being "perfectly present."
You don’t need to stay in the present all the time.
Consistently staying present hasn’t been done by anyone. Not the Buddha, not the Dalai Lama, not anyone. It’s not how we’re built.
Once we see that moving our attention works to feel differently, our mind seems to go: "Great! Now all I need to do is do this all the time! Then it’ll be perfect. Then I’ll be fine..."
But this creates another "there" we need to get to. The expectation, or hope for permanent presence becomes another attachment.
It's another way to take the "not enough" of this moment, and somehow get "there" where it’s all better.
But we know that formula... it's the formula for suffering.
That’s the important thing to see here.
The consistent way our mind critiques this moment and decides "it’s not enough" is another form of suffering, it's a resistance to "what is."
We need to choose this moment over and over again as a PRACTICE.
Please don’t let that imply that you’ll stay in the moment all the time, or that it will all be easy, or that you’ll ever do it perfectly.
You won’t. Not all the time, not even a lot of the time.
It’s ok to relax. It’s ok to think. You don’t need to be present constantly.
You can let your mind go... but as you notice your thinking coming to the moments that are hard, THEN wake up. In that moment, see the thought, and move your attention.
Will you need to do it again? Yep! So do it again.
Move your attention to your breath, your body, your sensations.
Not all the time, but definitely when you see that you’re caught by a thought.
With self love, and gentle work, you’ll start doing it more and more naturally. The neurons in your brain will start strengthening around new ways of making meaning.
It WILL get easier.
This is why it’s helpful to keep a practice, so your mind continues to learn about moving your attention around. Then when you need it, the skill is there, ready for use.
But, let's be honest...
This becomes much more difficult when life is legitimately "bad."
When tragedy strikes...
When we wake up to an addiction that has been wired into our system and we now have chosen to resist it...
When someone breaks our heart...
When we're lonely...
When work is scary, or tough, or doesn’t seem to pay enough...
When we lose our job...
It’s really hard!
Those are not all the moments, even though it can feel like that when we’re experiencing them.
Life will be "bad" sometimes, for sure... but the key is learning how to be resilient.
It’s important to know that we’re not trying to be perfect and we’re not trying for easy either. We’re trying to do what works in the moment and long term.
The move that works all the time, every time, is moving your attention in the moment.
The skill to have in everyday life is the skill of consciously moving your attention.
I remember "waking up" to the fact that I wasn’t in control of my thoughts.
Before having any kind of mindfulness training, I tried to focus on my breath for ten breaths, and I was horrible at it. This was a huge epiphany for me, and it also freaked me out.
This was a wake up for me for sure. I learned: "Wow! I am not actually thinking these thoughts."
The next thing that happened was a mistake...
I thought that once I could have a little more mastery over my thoughts that I could achieve perfection, or something like it... that I could "master" thought.
I should be able to move my attention and leave it somewhere (like on my breath). So I worked really hard at it, and I got better and better at it.
But my mistake was this...
I started feeling bad every time a thought would pop up. Like I was failing at the "waking up" I was doing.
Thoughts became "bad" and presence became "good."
But thoughts aren’t bad, thoughts are thoughts. They arise all on their own.
The big epiphany, the second level awakening, came when I realized how that impulse to be thoughtless was just another desire... another attachment.
What happened next was funny.
I started to see that it was all perfectly imperfect.
When a thought would come up, and I would have that impulse to be mad about it, I would "wake up" to that and LAUGH.
Saying to myself, "There I am doing it again, expecting perfection. Hahaha..." and that was a much more useful "wake up."
While your thinking can get much "better," you are still not thinking your thoughts.
All you can do in the moment is deal with them when they come up. As you do, it will work in that moment. It does every time, and you’ll get better at it over time.
You don’t have to be perfect.
In fact the desire for that is just another thought, another attachment.
The act of loving yourself is the act of loving your imperfections. You exactly as you are.
The act of loving life is loving the imperfections of life. Life exactly as it is.
I know it is hard when it’s hard. I also know it’s beautiful when it’s beautiful. And it’s fun when it’s fun.
I hope that helps all of us.
Life is exhausting at times. I’m sorry if this is one of those times.
If you're working on waking up, that effort alone lets me say to you: "Good job. You're doing great!"
Be gentle with yourself and keep showing up.
It’s not about perfect, just do your best.
Be kind to yourself, and everyone else.
Don't miss a beat!
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