So, how much of a “Friday” does this one actually feel like for you? I ask because this time of year (it’s now December, y’all…how did that happen??) tends to be one of extremes. You’ve got ample excuses and opportunities to let loose, and then also a long list of obligations that may keep you from really being able to do that. Either that, or you spend your time rolling from one end of that spectrum to the other. Work, school, applications, family – there’s a lot to balance on your way to all that holiday festivity.
You know the drill, though – you have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert. In other words, get your focus on, get your “tests” finished for real, and then get out there and let it go. And because I’ve got your back, this weekend’s mindfulness challenge is all about helping you do just that.
As you know, this week was all about those tests in life, and especially those moments when you think you’re working on the task at hand, but really, you’ve got a whole storyline running through your head about how much you don’t want to be doing it, or how you’re not going to be able to do it well, or some other version of “This isn’t going to work out.” That kind of talk is not only counter-productive, but it also takes up energy that you could be using to ace the project itself. It’s also a form of avoiding discomfort, because as much as self-judgment stinks, it’s more familiar to most of us than scary new tasks like standardized entrance exams and final presentations. It’s basically a form of internal avoidance, or procrastination. So, for this weekend’s challenge, we start exactly where you’re probably trying not to. Confused? See note about vegetables above.
It’s ok, you’ve got this. I’ll even pretend-hold your hand. There you go…
So, what do you need to do that you just can’t bring yourself to reckon with? You would literally rather take on the odious task of clearing out the fridge in the common area or babysit your neighbor’s triplets than deal with it, whatever it is. Chances are that you haven’t been completely avoiding it because you can’t, and you know that, but when you do try to make some headway, the clock moves but little else happens.
Got it? OK, good.
Now, I’ve got some great news. I’m not going to make you do it. Mmm mmm, nope. Because first, you have to deal with the reason you aren’t getting it done. Otherwise, your wheels are going to keep spinning but the train isn’t going to leave the station anytime soon. You follow?
So, find your comfortable seat, and then, find your breath. For just a few rounds, try to let the focus of your attention be how your breath feels in your body. You breathe all the time, but you probably never really even notice it. Regardless, you’re registering whether that breath is warm or cool, for example, and where exactly in your body it’s traveling at any given second. These are things you can actually pay attention to, if you want to, and in doing so, you connect to where you are right now. It’s called present moment awareness, my friend, and it comes with some great insights.
Next, bring your unwanted task to mind. Picture yourself actually doing it. Think in detail – where are you? What does the environment look like? What do you look like? Once you have that image in place, check back in with your body. What’s going on? How ya feelin’? Got any thoughts attached to those feelings? Whatever comes up, don’t push it away. The idea here is to acknowledge it, and sit with it for just a few minutes without bashing yourself for it, so you can better understand what it’s made of.
You might not really like what you see, or…it might be easier than you expect. But, try not to expect, if you can. Just let it happen, and take observant notes. No one’s going to get hurt. It’s all just in your mind anyway, right?
Funny thing happens when you stare a bully in the face: its power dissolves. It’s often the push-pull of avoidance and the storylines we create that make things far worse in our minds than they actually are in reality. You can’t avoid challenges in life, and you can’t protect yourself from discomfort forever. You also can’t control every thought that arises in your mind, but you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to how you respond to them. When negative thoughts arise, you can say “I see you” without making space at the table for them. Your attention belongs elsewhere, and with the power of your breath, you are in charge of who and what gets to have it.
“Energy flows where intention goes.” – James Redfield
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire