Being. Breathing. Being Breathed.
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Emotions Follow Body
(This is a sister to last week's Power Poses tool.) There is a growing body of research (pun intended) that gives credence to the idea that you can help change your emotions by changing your bodily postures and facial expressions. I talked about that briefly in Toolkit #2 in the section entitled,"A important note about why zapchen, power poses, etc. might work" (about halfway down the page). My suggestion is, of course, to do the opposite of what our young friend is doing here. If you're interested, you could also check out Lugubrious ha-ha, an earlier post on the benefits laughing and smiling.
This tool is from the third Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
Being. Breathing. Being Breathed.
I expect most of you are familiar with Robert Fulghum's essay, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," from his first book (of the same title). That book also includes a tongue-in-cheek entry about his fantasy of getting a huge reward for a very simple task.
His vision? The Elders "give you some sandpaper and lemon oil and rags. And...the stick--a nice but ordinary piece of wood. All you have to do is polish it. As well as you can. Whenever you feel like it. That's it: polish the stick." The elders return in a week and notice how thoroughly you have done the job. "'No stick was ever polished quite like this!' they will exclaim. Your picture will appear on TV and in the papers. The story will say, 'Man who is good at heart and well intentioned has thoroughly and completely and admirably polished his stick!'"
"But more than that," he goes on to say. "From this time forward, you may ignore your gutters and downspouts. Your checkbook and files and forms and closets and drawers and taxes and even the trunk of your car will be taken care of for you....You are forever released from the bond of Things to Do. For you have polished the stick! Look at it hanging there over your mantel. Be proud, stick polisher! This is really something. And, it is enough."
His closing line? "Oh, don't I wish."
An absurd fantasy--I grin, and mentally roll my eyes, when I read it. And yet...and yet...when I decided to write about mindfulness this week that essay came to mind.
Because the practice of mindfulness really is about doing almost nothing. And getting a reward for it.
For the purposes of this piece, by mindfulness I mean the basic practice of sitting comfortably and quietly, while simply noticing the sensations of one's breath. All I am doing is sitting there, breathing--and being aware of my breathing. Not even "paying attention to it" which implies a more strict focus. Just being aware. And not judging myself. Even when my mind strays off onto various other things--which it does. Constantly. When it does--and this is key--I just notice what I am doing, and then start noticing my breathing again. I had very good mindfulness teachers. No judgment. No striving. No having to do.
This gives various parts of my brain a chance to rest--the sophisticated, thinking, problem-solving parts, the critical, judgmental parts, and the more primitive "beware!" parts.
When I've been sitting there mindful for a little while, it is not unusual for me to feel a soft and simple contentment, kind of like a sleeping baby.
This kind of mindfulness is an invitation, rather than a command........it is kindness, rather than work........homecoming, rather than visitation........allowing, rather than doing........it is being rather than accomplishment........ahhhhhhhh rather than oh!.........it is breathing in God.........it is God...breathing us.
What Anne Lamott calls the mystery of grace, "which meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us."
Until next time,
Man with stick, Pang Yuhao, unSplash
Child in wagon, Blake Meyer, unSplash
Baby sleeping, unknown