A Mindfulness Practice For Inner Peace and Well Being
Last week, I had the inaugural gathering at my new, MUCH smaller place. It took almost 6 months to have my first party because downsizing took about 30 times longer than I imagined. (and it was WAY harder to let stuff go than I thought it would be; I still have regrets about some of it. My mindfulness about this was less than stellar.)
Frankly, I was living in a cluttered mess way longer than an acceptable “I-just-moved” time frame. I can remember the moment this started to change. I was talking with a friend on the phone and I noticed a window in the hallway at the top of the stairs that lead up to my apartment. (It’s the top floor of a really cool house, and I love the word, “apartment”- makes my urban soul extremely happy).
When I noticed how the light was shining through the artistic shape of that window frame, everything seemed to change.
Soon, I loved the whole place. And once that happened, the artwork got hung,(and by the way, I found some great stuff at Savers-from people who are downsizing like me. One of my favorite finds is this vintage poster.) Once the artwork was up, I was motivated to buy a couch. (After more than an hour of conversation with my friend while we sat on a couch at World Market, an employee joked that he could get us a glass of wine. I bought the couch on the spot.)
Before I knew it, I was “settled in.”
Of course, I got blasted with three urgent deadlines on the day of my party. I had to work late and after rushing to the store for groceries, I didn’t even have time to vacuum.
First Things First
So. First things first, right?
I walked in with an armload of groceries, on the phone with a friend who is getting her MFA. Since I promised to read her a short essay, I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and pawed my computer out of my messy backpack. While I read my writing to her, I thought: “You don’t have time for this!” and then I thought: “Yes, you do. This is literally your dream, and you are not giving this time away.”
After reading the essay, I rushed upstairs, cluttered up the kitchen table with groceries, shoved the backpack in a closet, and greeted my 13-year-old dog. The moment she stretched her old body up and started towards me, I stopped thinking about anything else and said hello like this:
“Oh, it’s the love of my life! Hi Lou Lou! How was your day? Let’s take a walk. We’re having a party tonight, so we’re making it short. You are SUCH a good dog!” After I hugged her, I took her on a short, VERY slow old-dog walk. By the end, I felt my frustration and worry about the party come back, and hurried her along as best I could.
Instead of really cleaning, I threw clutter into my closet, shined up the bathroom sink, and carried on with cooking. (I thought delicious food might distract my guests from my current state of disarray.)
Mindfulness Changes Everything
When I opened my cabinet for the extra-aromatic olive oil (scent matters!), I saw the prayer that I wrote in chalk on the inside of this cabinet:
(The whole prayer is here)
That micro second pause brought back my mindfulness and I became aware of something that for me, was life-changing. In therapy, I am getting to know the different parts of myself, some of which were oppressed by trauma, and some of which were exaggerated into self-sabotage with unhealthy risk-taking and impulsive choices. I’ve learned that the person who says hello to her dog in that totally reassuring, unconditionally loving person with all the time in the world way is ME, and she’s always available when I need her.
In that moment with the cabinet open, I remembered this, and thought “ah, I can tap into that reassurance right now”.
I noticed that part of me felt worried, embarrassed and anxious. Part of me felt excited and happy to see these dear friends, and part of me felt surprisingly confident. (one thing I know I can do is make food taste really good)
My reassuring nurturing nature took over and the rest of the evening was simply divine. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and the conversation was easy and deep.
When one of my guests said “Oh, this place makes me want to totally redo my house”, I thought, WOW. This therapy stuff really works.
We All Have Many Different Parts
So, the point of this post is that the statements “I AM worried, I AM excited , I AM tired”, etc. are never all the way true.
A more accurate reflection of our state of mind is found in those times when we struggle with a choice, and say, “Part of me knows I should call, and part of me thinks it’s better to wait”.
In moments like this, we are aware that we are not one solid thing, but a multi-faceted miracle walking around “being” a human. And while trauma makes these parts more obvious and separate, we all have them.
So, the next time you feel anxious or you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to remind yourself of this fact.
” Only one part of me is worrying about my health, flipping out about these bills, or anxious about tomorrow.”
Just saying that will gently prod your reassuring, more confident nature into action.
The Buddha (or The God or The Higher Self) Within Is Real
The Buddha or the God within ( if you are not engaged in a religious or spiritual practice, you can think of this as the wisest and most compassionate part of us) is real. We all have it, but when we are feeling fear or anxiety or even elated excitement, our physiology takes over and causes us to feel as if our whole self is fearful, anxious or excited. This mindfulness is not easy to manage, or uncover; It takes a long time to discern when you are the most reassuring person, the most loving friend, the most calming influence, or the most confident encourager.
It’s best to choose uncomplicated relationships to start. A pet is often easiest. Just stop and recall how it feels to be an unconditionally loving being to your dog, for example. (The primary gift, in my humble opinion, of dog ownership is the way that a dog tends to bring out the best in us. Of course, this is the opposite if you don’t like dogs, but I just can’t understand that– ha ha.)
I find it helpful to place mindfulness reminders (prayers, quotes or pictures that inspire me) in places that normally trigger a less pleasant feeling (my popcorn, chips and other not so great food choices are located in the cabinet with the prayer inside, and the set-aside prayer often stops me from grabbing too much).
This practice is really helpful for students with test taking-PART of me feels like she doesn’t know this stuff, or interviewing, PART of me is really nervous, and many other circumstances.
Acceptance, Awareness And Wholeness
I could go on and on and ON, but I just wanted to share this relatively simple practice with you. I think many people imagine the goal of therapy and mindfulness is the integration of these separate parts into an undifferentiated whole. But, in my experience, it’s actually the opposite; It’s the ACCEPTANCE and AWARENESS of all the parts of yourself so that you can allow your true feelings to emerge, and tap into the most beneficial thoughts and actions when you need them.
(And I know I say this way too often, but I believe that these transformational moments are the direct result of taking the time to examine my life. This is why the pop psychology idea that you should never look back literally enrages me-especially as the days grow shorter-ha ha)
Have a wonderfully productive (in my case I have 5 deadlines tomorrow!?!?) and/or peaceful Sunday.
Thanks so much for reading my post,
(This Degas print was another great find, and for some reason, it makes me think of mindfulness about all my different parts.)