Each morning, before I sit in meditation for twenty minutes, I read one chapter of Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. Remember? I said I would go back and do this after I read the book straight through, and here I am crushing it.
Ok, maybe not crushing it, but at least I am getting to it most days.
This morning was something special. I read this:
“Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface, and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy.” – Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn
I am great at mindfulness. I am hyper-aware of everything around me; the people, their moods, the air, objects, what needs to be done, etc. It’s my superpower and it comes naturally to me. It also drives me bonkers much of the time, especially when I come face to face with the fact that not everyone shares my awareness. What do you mean, “When did we move that trash can to the other side of the room?!”
With that tidbit of knowledge about me, you would think I would have an eye for minding the details, but…nope. I’m a big picture person. I take it all in at once, all the time, which leads to some pretty overwhelming thoughts and feelings that I have only begun to understand and accept.
What’s missing? Calmness and focus, concentration. Which is what this chapter was about. Concentration leads to calmness, and calmness is addictive. We can throw ourselves into it like an escape pod and stay there forever. It’s another form of attachment, a refusal to accept and move in the world around us.
Single-minded pursuit, complete focus on one thing, is a wonderful way to get things done, but it has its drawbacks. Have you ever known someone with that superpower? I’m in awe of them, and then I’m frustrated and angry with them because they will not look at me when I’m talking to them. They don’t notice that I’m there wanting to connect.
Where is the balance? Practicing focus and concentration alongside mindfulness. Being still allows the water around you to be still or flow quietly around you, while mindfulness allows us to see what’s beneath the surface and move.
I have typically fallen asleep during my meditation practice. I’m still sitting, sometimes nodding my head, but I’m dreaming. I’m talking to someone, holding my pencil, turning a page, or planning what I’ll do later. I’m never quiet for long.
Today, I put my mind on my breath and thought, “Calm the water.” I imagined standing hip deep in a warm river (I hate cold water) and running my hands in the water. When I moved my feet, the silt at the bottom floated up and mixed with the rushing water, obscuring my view. I stood still and let the water run and waited. Soon, the silt and leaves settled, and I could see the rocks beneath my feet, the fish swimming in the deep, and the sticks that might poke me if I moved too quickly.
It worked. I want to bring this feeling with me all day long and I’ll try. Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I’ll take a breath and think, “Calm the water,” so I can see more clearly and make kinder decisions, respond in more helpful ways.
In the past (like this past week kind of past), I’ve struggled with trying to do everything. I’ve actually cried out loud, “Everyone says slow down, do one thing at a time, but when I do, I lose something, forget something, or fail!”
Just typing that made me think, “Yeah, Michelle, that’s attachment. You need to let things go.”
No one on the planet can do EVERYTHING. I’m getting more done, but not well, and in the process of doing I’m failing at the most important thing, being present and loving to the people around me. I’ve got lots of thinking to do, but first…stillness. Calm the water, so I can see beneath.