Be Here. Now.
It seems as simple as trying to center your thoughts and yet it is complex, harder than it looks, and much more difficult than just pulling your head out of your… well. You know.
The act of living in the moment and practicing mindful meditation is powerful. It is everything we need for living in this chaotic and sometimes terrifying world. But what is it and how can we all bring it into our day to day? Through meditation can we find more Firefly Moments that change our way of thinking?
What is it?
Mindfulness is the process of letting go of everything else that is cluttering up your thoughts and bringing your attention to the present moment. It is a deep breath that calls your focus back to center. At that moment you are retraining your mind to target feelings and the physical sensations of that very moment.
Mindfulness can happen anywhere, anytime, and you don't need a yoga mat or a bun. It doesn't take an hour, a trek to an insense smelling studio, or even leaving your office. It isn't a religion, it isn't against your religion, it is simply learning how to think better in order to reduce stress and heal your body.
If you want to have all of those things, that's fine too! But your mindful meditation practice is YOUR practice and you need to be comfortable taking a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe, clear your head, and relax. As you grow better at it, you can find that going into that state of meditation can be anywhere and as long as you need. However, in the beginning, it is suggested that you find a quiet place and build up your time.
Practice makes perfect.
I've been meditating off and on for many years. Sometimes it is easier for me to find the time and focus to be able to sit in meditation and other times I just can't focus and I get distracted by everything.
I forgive myself for the times that I can only last a few seconds of quiet breathing before I need to move on. Practice helps this special time to be more meaningful no matter how long you have. And it is most important not to have judgment for your pain, for your distraction, or for needing more time to figure it out.
Some people, not myself, have this ability to meditate easily. I know I need effort. It can be a challenge. If your mind is constantly moving from one thought to the next it can be frustrating when you are trying to retrain your mind to slow down and be present in the right now with calm or no thoughts at all.
Being HERE and NOW means it can be anywhere that you need it.
From yoga to walking, mindfulness can be part of your life with ease. In fact, because it calls you to practice being present in all situations, you can't just work it into perfect zen filled scheduled times. You have to train your mind to seek out opportunities, like eating or sitting at your desk between meetings. How about going to the bathroom? I mean, honestly, if you are trying to work in learning how to focus and calm… isn't that a great moment where most of us get a few minutes of ME time?
My Firefly Moment – One Legged Terror!
Last year I was recovering from having major surgery on my leg. Walking hurt. Every freaking step for the last couple of years had hurt. After my surgery, I wanted to wake up, feel better, and go for a walk pain-free. And I was seriously silly thinking that it was going to happen without effort.
The first few weeks were hard, learning how to walk in a boot as my leg strengthened and healed. But once I got that boot off, I was heartbroken when I stepped free from it and felt instant pain and weakness.
The more I focussed on the imperfections the harder it was for me to embrace that I actually did feel dramatically better then I had prior to the surgery. I was in my own words “broken” and a “one-legged terror” ( Yes, I still had two legs and I am a complete a$$hole for not being thankful for having both of them. But I'm an A$$ often… so..)
Week after week I showed up for physical therapy, sometimes already grumpy, hoping that after each session I would be better. The truth was, I was getting better but the recovery was very slow and each week that I didn't practice my exercises at home as prescribed, the longer it took. The pain was fresh and hot, I was scared that this was my life forever.
After a year I was angry and looking to lash out about it. I was still in pain. And I didn't see any progress was being made. This is where mindfulness made its way into my life.
My therapist who was always happy, but not the kind of cheerful annoying happy, but the kind of positive coach that could deal with my bitching, she looked at me and said: ” Look at how far you've come and you don't even see it!”
Each week SHE had kept measurements, kept documentation of my recovery, and she saw what I couldn't.
I wasn't “There” I had my head focused only on the future, the pain, the negatives and I couldn't see that each step I made forward actually was retraining my mind and my leg to let go of the pain and rethink how to move in a new way.
In that year I had gone from immobile and not walking at all, to walking a mile before needing to sit down. I'd gone from a full stop to a short but meaningful stride. Yes, I had some nerve damage that wasn't actually awful, but annoying and kinda scary.
Fear kept me focussed on that damaged area and it was hard to let go of it.
That day, my work with her changed. No longer was I holding on to what I used to be, or who I wanted to be, I focussed on who I was at that moment.
Each step became very purposeful, one foot at a time, one long stride leading to another. Learning to accept that stairs were difficult for me when I wasn't tuned in to activating the muscles to lift my bad leg, balance is hard when you aren't in the right mindset. And acceptance of the here and now isn't a bad thing, as long as there is always movement forward.
No, the reality is that my leg isn't great. I still need to work on it as much as I need to work on training the rest of my body to be stronger so it can keep fighting my illness. But the only way I am going to stop my forward movement will not be because of a bad leg, but bad thinking.
Pain is powerful.
Many of us live in pain. Emotional or physical pain, many of us have this burden in our lives that we pick up and carry around with us everywhere. It is so powerful, and yet it is also so destructive.
When you are able to step outside of your pain, it is a freeing moment that I know anyone who lives in a painful world dreams of.
I know people who are unable to see through the clouds of depression, and I believe that mindfulness training could help them.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches us to disassociate away from the pain and retrains our thinking to take away some of the power that our brains have allocated to pain attention. When you are a more mindful person, it is possible that you can refocus your thoughts to lessen pain, anxiety, even depression. Calming the body and mind lowers your heart rate, your blood pressure, and it settles the nerves.
I wish I had kept a journal of my recovery so I could have seen the steps forward I had been taking. I know it would have given me a better sense of how far I'd come when I was feeling so scared and upset at the setbacks. Instead, I heard the internal chatter of failure and frustration, I wish I had been able to stop and see from a distance the changes that were happening when I wasn't looking.
Meditation isn't for everyone. Is it for you?