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  • Michele DeCamp

Intro to Mindfulness

I mentioned a mindfulness practice around pruning my tomatoes, and thought it might be nice to expand on what that means.


First, mindfulness is all about our ability to be in the present moment; to be connected to our experience instead of distracted by thoughts. It may sound odd at first, to consider how you may not be experiencing life as it unfolds, but if you start to pay attention to your thoughts you will likely find you're commonly focused on something else, while completing a task on auto-pilot.


We often think of driving as being an almost hypnotic experience of going through the motions - or brushing teeth, or showering. These examples may help you recall how the mind can wander. Now, if you were going to approach them mindfully you could try to maintain your focus by being aware of your senses during those tasks - think about the sensation of your hands on the steering wheel, the heat or air conditioning breezing by your skin, even the clouds in your view. Conversely the temperature of water in your mouth or on your skin, the feeling of your hand holding the toothbrush or rubbing shampoo in your hair, or the sense of gravity and contact under your feet.


All of these sensations keep us aware of what is happening "now" rather than following the dialog of what's on our grocery list, or what we're going to do later, or replaying what our roommate said when we left the house (today, or yesterday, or last month or year!). Being preoccupied with these thoughts of the past or future tend to come with emotions, tension, and anxiety or depression. If we're consciously connecting instead to the experience of the moment we often find peace and calm. It takes a lot of energy to follow the thoughts of our mind!

Or, in the moment, maybe we are facing a difficult emotion - then we can be present with it: to feel the emotion and accept it as it comes up allows true expression - and doing so doesn't have to be attached to what this emotion means for tomorrow, or what caused it (today, or yesterday, or last month/year!). If we feel and accept rather than pushing away (often deliberately distracting ourselves from feeling uncomfortable) then that act of processing further clears our mind to allow the next present moment - and our presence with it - to unfold with less distraction.


It is a process, and it takes practice - a lot of practice. Each time I catch myself watching my thoughts and coming back to my sensations is a victory. When I remember to feel in the now I find such relief, and the more I do it the more conscious I am of how side-tracked my mind sometimes takes me.


Our busy world has trained us to keep thinking and planning, filling every moment with that rush, but I find that if I can take a breath and be still and mindful of my sensations, my focus when 'doing' grows. Contrary to logic, slowing down to take a break or be present saves me time (and so much energy) in the long run. I used to feel exhausted just worrying about everything I had to do - before I even started doing it! Now, I can look at my tomatoes through the kitchen window and realize it's a good time to take a break, go outside to be present with them, send them and myself some Reiki, while I harvest and prune and think about the smell of the greenery and the breeze kissing us both, and the vibrant greens and reds of abundance and growth and nature's innate ability.


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