Life is short. Drink it up.

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.

Day 1 without Facebook

I survived…but I reached for my phone at least 10 times during the day. When I didn’t go to Facebook, I noticed my thinking shifted back to the moment I was in. I also began thinking about some of my friends that I could/should/wanted to call. I didn’t because I feel like no one talks on the phone anymore; everyone is too busy. Maybe next time I’ll actually call.

My heart’s deepest desire

The following article is written by a young woman coming to terms with having ALS:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-spencerwende/still-lucky_b_3108170.html?utm_hp_ref=becoming-fearless&icid=maing-grid7%7Chp-laptop%7Cdl22%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D314050

Even though I help terminally ill people come to grips with their illness and focus on living each day until they are no longer living, becoming terminally ill has to be one of my worst fears. Ever since I became a mom, my prayer has always been “Dear God, please let me live long enough to see my children grow up.”  I want them to be old enough to not need a mom…not that such an age exists. But I want them to be able to remember me. I want them to know for the rest of their lives, based on their own personal experiences (versus being told by others), that I truly love them to heaven and back. I appreciate this woman’s honesty. I think I would probably wrestle with some of the same things. But I hope that, like her, at the end of the day, I could find my inner strength and commit to forging ahead…taking each day, each moment, each hug, each glance captive and savoring it in my heart forever.

We should really strive to live each day like that anyway…

Bloom where you’re planted

I aIMG_20120713_173235m coming to accept that I am a giver. That is the way God made me. I have lamented for years how much life has demanded from me, but I am starting to see that, regardless of the demands, I can’t help but contribute. Whether it is by choice or circumstances, my life is a constant state of giving. And instead of looking at that as something to be corrected, overcome, or “therapied away,” I am starting to change my perspective. Being a giver is a gift. And I believe being a giver is my calling…my vocation. That is why I constantly find myself in situations that elicit gift of self. Some of the discomfort I feel is probably due to my fighting what I am naturally inclined/drawn/called to do. Instead of trying to escape, I am seeking ways to embrace self-sacrifice. Not as a martyr, but as a master of my “trade.” A person who has a gift for singing looks for ways to best enhance and use their voice. They look for ways to hone in on their talents. I have long been envious of people who have lives of leisure. I dream of massages, cruises, vacations, childless days/nights. It is the same as a dog wishing to be a cat, instead of recognizing his own unique and instrinsic value in simply being what he was created.

This paradigm shift overlaps/converges with my desperate search for spiritual footing. My roles as a wife, mother, and hospice social worker all require a lot of me. Not just my time and energy, but ME…my heart, my spirit. A spa day or game night with friends, although very enjoyable, doesn’t replenish what is sacrificed with that kind of giving. At least not for me. There have been great givers in history and I started thinking about how they answered their calling yet maintained their sanity. One of the greatest, most selfless givers that immediately came to my mind was Mother Teresa. Cliche, perhaps. But I can’t think of another example in my lifetime of someone who gave so much…and did not whine for a spa day in return. HOW did she do it? I suspect only by the grace of God. And I suspect that there was much quiet time spent in His presence. THAT is what I’m seeking. In order to be able to best do what I have been placed here to do, at least at this time in my life, I believe that it is stillness, quietness, holiness that I need…where I can commune with the Almighty Giver and receive the kind of supernatural grace necessary to make the most of this life.

So many times I feel the world (and myself) insisting that I need to make time for myself, that I need more me time…that it’s all about me. But I never really got a peace from that thinking…or from the things I did in attempts to have “me time.” I wrestled with feeling self-absorbed/egocentric in my attempts to replenish what was lost. Then, just the other day, like a ton of bricks, it hit me: I don’t need to make time for ME…I need to make time for HIM.

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html

The difference

There is a difference between not doing bad and doing good.  I believe that a life of purpose focuses more on the latter.  That is what I desire.

 

I do it in my daily life as a hospice social worker, and it is rewarding beyond words…but that is my job.  I want to impart these values on my children.  I want to make a difference in the world…when I’m NOT getting paid to do so.

Us and Them

After the situation happened with Trayvon Martin it became undeniable that stereotypes and racism are alive and well in America…right here in Central Florida.  I’m not so naïve to think that they were gone, but never has it been so blatant.  And it was deadly.

I had to have a talk with my son about how to be black safely and not to get himself unnecessarily roughed up or arrested.  I told him be extra polite if he gets pulled over, to not talk back, and to not be surprised if he is asked to step out of his car so his vehicle can be searched.  The conversation was surreal and painful.  It hurts to think that I have to even say things like this to my son…that this is going to be his reality.  It hurts to think that at some point he will be judged simply for the color of his skin.  It even hurts to feel relieved that my son is so light brown that maybe no one will know he’s black.  The truth is, no matter how much I tell him to do or not do, he can’t change the color of his skin.

At that point I felt a cavernous rift between me and every single white person I know (including my mother).  They will NEVER have to sit down with their beloved children and tell them these things.  The thought of even having such a conversation will never cross their minds.  I felt vulnerable and endangered and saw all of them as privileged and aloof.  They became the enemy for a moment.

That is a natural emotional reaction, before the brain has a moment to rationalize the scenario.  Obviously, I don’t think that all white people are the enemy.  But there is a real enemy out there that I must educate my son about.  It is necessary for his survival.

I tried to put the shoe on the other foot and imagined what conversations average white families have with their children about black people. “Honey, if you see a black man on the street, make sure you lock your doors [because all black people steal].”  “Son, be prepared to get passed up for a job because some [undeserving] n***** is going to get it.”  The stuff in brackets may or may not be said…either way, it is implied.

No matter how much we want to believe things have changed, it remains Us and Them.  We are able to coexist, peacefully most of the time.  But we ALL have our prejudices…and we ALL act on them in some form or fashion.  It is so sad.