I am working on mindfulness and a big part of that involves taking the time to be present in each moment, focusing only on my experience in that moment. Not to analyze how I got there. Not to beat myself up for being there. (Or congratulate myself – theoretically…But I am never that presumptuous… or kind to myself, so that’s a non-issue for me.) Mindfulness is not even about figuring out how to correct/avoid the situation in the future. (This is a major challenge for my control freak, perfectionist, social worker self.) Mindfulness is just about being present in the here and now. And, in fact, our lives are just a series of here-and-nows.
I think of practicing mindfulness like tasting wine. Not that I’ve ever done a wine tasting, but I’ve watched enough TV to create my own analogy… so even if it’s wrong, it works for me.
When you are tasting wine, you don’t just chug it down and move on to the next one. You engage all of your senses. Perhaps you hear the wine being poured. You see the color. Maybe it’s a deep red that is more like an inky Burgundy-black. Or a translucent white that gives an ethereal glow to objects as you peer at them through the glass. You hold the glass, feeling the weight of it in your hand, feeling the movement of the liquid in your glass. You inhale the fragrance, noticing the subtle hints of individual fruits, herbs, and woods. The acidity may even burn your nose a bit. Your mouth may involuntarily water. All of this before you have even placed the glass to your lips.
Once you sip the wine, you taste all the flavors like a symphony, a melodious concert made up of varied instruments, each of which you can hear if you narrow your focus on that single sound. You let the flavors resonate in your mouth, appreciating their individual components and their harmony. Or you may repulsed by their perceived discord. You feel the temperature of the liquid, both in your mouth and as it goes down. The wine may be bitter, sweet, dry. It may have the taste of licorice which causes your stomach to turn. Or it may be so strong that it causes you to shudder. Or it may roll easily down your throat, filing your body with warmth and ease. You are not judging or critiquing the wine, but simply experiencing it with your senses and paying attention to (being mindful of) each of your sensory responses. You are not thinking about the next one. You are not thinking about work. You are not calling yourself a lush. When you taste a wine you don’t like, you are not thinking poorly of anyone who might enjoy it. You are merely present in your experience.
Finally, before you move on to taste another, you cleanse your palate so that experience will not be tainted by the prior. (Probably why you spit instead of swallow in a real tasting.) You wash it away so that you may be free to fully appreciate the next experience for what it is in and of itself.
This is my understanding of mindfulness.
This is what I am trying to do in my life. Experience each moment and be aware of my experience. I need to slow down and allow myself to do this. Writing helps. I’ve been lamenting that I miss writing and haven’t had time to do it. I never realized how therapeutic it was for me. Writing permits me the time, space, and quiet to listen to myself… paying attention to my body and my senses…NOT MY THOUGHTS. My thoughts are where toxins like stress, worry, fear, criticism, jealousy, and self-loathing reproduce like a cancer. And that it what I’m trying to stop.
Mindfulness is an oxymoron of sorts, because I can only achieve it by getting out of my head.