Hello, and welcome to my new website.
Maybe I‘ve known you for years and maybe now you are just meeting me. Either way, I feel glad to make your acquaintance and privileged to be able to have such a space to have a voice.
I’ve wanted to write for years now and am just now doing it in a way that might feel more accessible. I’ve been journaling since I was in single digits — I think around the first grade. Since then, I’ve carried a blank book with me but haven’t forayed into the digital realm too much because I like the feeling of physical media. That said, I find myself, during my work, engaging in storytelling. And I would like to be able to chronicle some important points here.
It’s being proven more and more in the literature the importance of slowness, of mindfulness. When I mention that point to folks, often the word has been heard but it is misunderstood: many have heard it in passing and believe mindfulness to be a meditative practice in which a person sits, cross legged, and perhaps murmurs an “om” now and again. However, mindfulness is a larger practice than that practiced in ashrams or on a therapist’s couch — it is accessible for all persons, at all times. Mindfulness is being in the present moment, and focusing in on sensory information as well as one’s own mental or emotional state. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress, alleviate some symptoms of depression and anxiety, help with focus and attention, and improve life and relationship satisfaction. Working in this way with one’s brain allows one to form new neural pathways and, over time, restructure one’s mental makeup in such a way that the effects of stress can be lessened and processed more adeptly, through neuroplasticity.
So what does this mean for the layperson? How can one learn to meditate? One of the main answers is, to practice. Taking time and space to relax and focus on processing — doing nothing — is important. And taking this time with yourself in a non-judgmental way. I hear from a lot of folks that they are scared or frustrated about “doing it wrong.” When that happens, I advise taking pause to focus in on what exactly that feels like. What is the concept of “doing it wrong?” What does it feel like to feel the emotions associated with it? Take pause to consider. Look, you’re practicing mindfulness already.
Mindfulness can also be an active process. Sometimes I feel cagey and can’t relax. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year and a half travelling. On one occasion, I was travelling to Eastern Colorado to visit a close acquaintance. They had been working, and so I found that I had an entire day to myself. What fun, I thought, to have this time untethered in a place that was unfamiliar to me. I decided in a spur-of-the-moment kind of way to take a car and just drive East, to Kansas. Kansas seems alright today, I thought, and piled into the car. The trip started a little stressful because I had to pump my own gas for probably the first time in my life (NJ born and raised), but I made it out alive. While I was driving on I-70 East, I practiced mindfulness. I was in the moment. It was just me and the endless yellow fields and it felt so new and fresh. I took note of the scenery and allowed it to pass into my eyes and allowed myself to feel excitement and pleasure. I was looking at a whole lot of nothing, but being in the moment made it something.
This is it! Mindfulness. Imagine the people driving every day on that bare stretch of land — it becomes old news. People drive from one place to another and might not even recall the trip or see the landscape because they aren’t in the moment — we all know the feeling. And that’s OK! When you find yourself drifting, it is OK to bring yourself back. Into the present.
My favorite part of the trip was, I was driving, and smack! Some… stuff ran into the car. There was brown roughage rolling all over the place. I actually couldn’t believe my eyes — apparently, tumbleweeds are real (I know!). They were blowing all over the road, from left to right. Caught up in fences and caught up on others cars’ front grills. Straggly bits and pieces all over the place. I couldn’t stop laughing. Something so simple had brought me so much joy.
It’s moments like this that I feel like I live for, currently. Being in the present and being able to access my feelings and senses makes me feel alive. It feels almost like hitting the reset button, when life gets in the way and I get caught up in some of this “human stuff’ like worrying about money or health insurance or relationships or how to clean a shower liner (???). I highly recommend finding ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life, and incorporating it in ways that feel meaningful to you. Go look at some stuff, go feel some stuff, hell, go smell some stuff, whatever, and take stock of the experience for you.