People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
― Thich Nhat Hanh,
This week, my formal, seated meditation practice was practically nonexistent. I believe that I only used my Muse, my electronic meditation coach, twice.
Being a perfectionist and a Type A personality, it would be easy to focus on what I didn’t do, to chide myself for being lax. Instead, I made a conscious decision to focus on how I did utilize mindfulness in my daily life.
I had a severe migraine (or back-to-back migraines…who knows?) almost all week. I was able to go to work several days, even though I was functioning well below capacity. I was mindful that my stuttering was the direct result of the migraine, and was able to have compassion for myself. And I was mindful of how many hours passed without taking time to take mindful breaths. The latter sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It was a gentle reminder that I had a tool in my spiritual/physical toolbox that I wasn’t using as frequently as I could. Once I “woke up” to this fact, I was able to close my eyes and take a few mindful breaths every hour or so. That helped me to be present in the moment, to worry less about how long the migraine was going to last and to focus on the tasks at hand.
When I stepped out of the office to buy lunch, I was mindful of how blue the cloudless sky was, of the cool, crisp autumn air on my skin and of how dogs never fail to make me smile.
I was mindful of how kind my manager, coworkers and medical professionals were when they realized how much pain I was in. And I was mindful that I needed to be kind — to others and especially to myself — even though (or especially because!) I felt so bad.
I called in sick two days because I was mindful of my limitations. I practiced mindful breathing as I lay in bed. It didn’t alleviate the pain, but it temporarily refocused my concentration on the next breath. Sometimes, I focused on the pain itself, which sounds counter intuitive, but it’s not. Where is the pain? (Hint, it’s not stationery.) What does it feel like? Is the pain throbbing, stabbing? Does it wax and wane? Concentrating on the pain in this manner made me realize that pain is not consistent or constant. “This, too, shall pass.”
In my experience, mindfulness comes in bursts. I once asked a renowned meditation teacher whether it was possible to sustain mindfulness. He looked slightly aghast and said that not only was it impossible, but that “constant mindfulness” would drive one insane.
Right now, the pain is a ghost of itself, not totally gone, but faint enough to allow me to write this brief post. I plan to go to the gym and to the Hester Street Fair, which is near my home. I plan to be mindful: of being relatively pain free, of the beautiful fall weather, of the joy of working out while listening to audio books, of enjoying interactions with vendors and others. Each of these everyday mindful moments will be a gift, as mindfulness always is.
What has your experience been with everyday mindfulness? Please feel free to share with my readers and me in the Comments section.