Confessions of an Imperfect Meditator: Or, From Zafu to Snafu!
January 16, 2018
I am seated comfortably in a slightly darkened and quiet space – spine easily erect, eyes peacefully closed, perhaps my palms are facing up. I am using my breath as an anchor for awareness, gently returning there after each pesky wayward thought. Aah… meditation. Aah… mindfulness. I am accepting each moment as it is with no judgment, no attachment, and no aversion. Focusing on the breath. Inhale … Exhale … Aah… I love mindfulness. Time seems to have vanished. I feel relaxed and composed; all is right with the world. I surrender to this peaceful moment, and accept what is. All body tension is released. What a lovely and pleasant practice. Aah … meditation. Aah … mindfulness. Life is good.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through
in the present moment,
Spirituality for the Other Six Days of the Week
And then, there is the real world. What about Mindfulness while Life is happening? What about mindfulness when you are not sitting on that fancy $80. round pillow (Zafu) and instead, you are sitting in the dentist chair, exposed by that bright light, those sterile sights and sounds, the too cold AC, and the promise of physical pain any minute? And after a loud CRACK! the dentist reluctantly stares down at the floor and stammers the clearly bad news, “I’m so sorry, we broke off your front tooth while trying to remove the temporary crown.”
“WHAT!?!?!” The ballistic racing thoughts are propelled in all directions simultaneously. “What do I do now? How much is this going to cost? How did this happen? What do we do now? How am I going to pay for this? You better be planning to pay for this. I can’t afford this. What will I look like without a front tooth? I can’t go out in the world without a front tooth! Thank God I don’t have to stand in front of a classroom tomorrow. Now what!? Shit!” “Uh oh, do people who meditate say shit?”
And then, “Oh, yeah, mindfulness. OK, wait, how do I do this mindfully? What am I feeling? What is happening in this present moment? What are my thoughts? Don’t think of your thoughts, just focus on your breath. What am I feeling? I’m feeling scared and angry. Where am I feeling this in my body? “How am I going to pay for this?” Woops… Accept this situation for what it is. No judgments. Wait. How can a broken off front tooth NOT be a bad thing? No aversion. Seriously? Yes, seriously. OK, I’m in this moment, blessing this moment for what it is. Yeah, right. This moment sucks. Do I get credit for being in this moment even though I am judging it as being a sucky moment? Clearly, I am not that evolved yet. OK, breathe… “- The dentist says she will pay all the costs for the new implant. She will send me to the best Oral Surgeon in town and pick up the entire tab. “OK, whew…”
Exhale… And then, “What’s an implant? What does that involve? Bone graft!? Three months!? Screw in my gums and then another four months!? And then the final implant after about a total eight-month process!? What!?!?”
“OK, back to mindfulness. What am I feeling? Get back in this moment. Focus on the inhale, then focus on the --- hey, wait, I haven’t exhaled at all in the last 10 minutes! Quick, exhale! Oh, and focus on it! This moment sucks. Stop judging this moment. That last moment is already gone, so get back into this one. Well, this one sucks, too. It’s all ok; in the great cosmic scheme of things, this is just another thing, another life experience. Accept what is. No aversion. OK, but now I am averse to being in aversion. I can’t win.”
“What about Mindful Self-Compassion?” – “Oh, yeah. OK, What was that four step process that Kristin Neff talks about? Oh, yeah –
“1) This is a moment of "freaking out".
2) "Freaking out" is part of life.
3) May I be kind to myself.
4) May I give myself the compassion I need.
Whew… breathe… and remember to exhale this time. And focus on it, damnit! Uh oh, do people who meditate say damnit? Oh, geez, back to my $80. round pillow.
A Golf Analogy
I wish I could say that this scenario description is an exaggeration. Well, maybe a little. But mostly, I lived this exact situation. I was just pleased that I had the presence of mind to at least try to be mindful in the middle of this mini-crisis. After more experience with meditation, I have no doubt that I won’t have to “try” to be mindful. It will become my default way of being. It already has become part of my daily comings and goings – at least the ones that don’t involve sudden and major hardship!
I think that meditation is to mindfulness as the driving range is to playing a game of golf. On the driving range, I pay attention to every little detail: how I address the ball, my grip, my back swing, my upper body, keeping my left arm straight, my hips leading, contact with the ball, my follow through. Every ball in that bucket is about focused concentration on the micro movements of my golf swing. Then, when I am all done, I can go about the joy and the challenge of simply playing a game of golf. I pay rudimentary attention to my club selection, grip, and stance. But beyond that, I trust that all that focused attention on the driving range will come to the fore (no pun intended) and reveal itself naturally with little conscious effort.
I trust that, in time, I will reap the benefits of my meditation practice. I will more naturally and mindfully take things in stride without having to consciously direct my responses. When experienced meditators are asked how they have benefited from their meditation practice, the most common response is this: “I feel like there is a bigger space of time between stimulus and response. I have just that much more opportunity to choose my response instead of just reacting.”
In the meantime, my meditation practice will continue with a lighthearted nod to good intentions and generous self-forgiveness for when I don't get it just right. Mindfulness is a quality that I have invited into my life, a daily intention to live my life with awareness - even when what I am aware of is the shock of a missing front tooth!
Be sure to join us at the 4th Annual New Mexico Leaders in Mindfulness Conference on Saturday, April 21.
The Conference will be held at the First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque at 3701 Carlisle, NE 87110
9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Registration is only $75.
Make this easy for yourself! Let me come to you!
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