A Tiny Bit of Practice is Still Practice
I've been under the weather this week, some sort of cough-cold thing, so I haven't felt much like improving my mindfulness. I did listen to one of the 12-minute "longer" mindfulness exercises yesterday, though, called Breath Awareness Practice. Here's a link to Dr. Siegel's site where you can download a similar exercise. It's the first one on the page.
Doing the exercise was interesting. I don't normally thinking about living a sea of air, but we do. The exercise really did make me realize how much is going on, even when I'm doing nothing, more or less. So much to listen to, to feel (for example, how your body is touching the chair you're sitting on), the air, etc.
To be honest, this experience reminded me somewhat of drug-induced experiences. "Oh my god, man, the air... it's everywhere!"
Most of the time I was thinking about breathing, though, I was aware of how my lungs weren't feeling so great.
I've been thinking, too, about how certain situations require more mindfulness naturally. I took Hazel out for a walk today right after it started snowing. In some places, the new snow covered old ice and the sidewalk was quite slippery. When I headed out, I decided to listen to music instead of the audiobook so I'd be able to focus more on walking without getting distracted. You know, like not texting while driving. Sometimes you're just asking for trouble.
For the record, I didn't fall down, but I still slipped twice, even with attempting to pay close attention.
So I didn't get a lot of mindfulness training in the last couple days, but I did get a lot of reading done. I finally finished David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks (I started it in Vail, last December) and I started and read half of Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Colorless Tsukuru was reviewed by Patti Smith for the New York Times, which I think is pretty cool. I loved Patti Smith memoir, Just Kids. She does the audio version and it was neat to hear the story in her words.
Is reading fiction mindful? It feels like it. As this article at Buddhist Door explains, if nothing else, reading fiction helps us develop empathy, which is a key part of mindfulness. For me, reading fiction keeps me in the moment of the novel. I move my awareness over to the story and characters and completely forget my own situation. I might be brought back by immediate needs, such as needing to go to the bathroom or being hungry, but I'm definitely not living outside the moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future.
I've always loved reading fiction for those reasons, but as I've gotten older, I've found other things to fill my time with - hence, I'd been reading the same novel for three months. I know that it would be good for me to rethink my routines so that I defaulted to reading more often, rather than email or the internet. I haven't yet figured out a way, but if I could read and call that mindfulness practice, that just might work.
Week Twenty-seven: Mental Health/Spiritual - Mindfulness