I have held off in writing this post for some time given all that is already written about it. So rather than explain the significance of mindfulness and meditation to simplifying one’s life (which while important, will be redundant to some of you), I will just share my experience with it.
Since September I have been taking a course on integrative psychotherapy for my social work program. The course is experiential and requires us to build and maintain a daily mindfulness/meditation practice of 30 minutes per day. I have been meditating regularly and keeping a daily gratitude journal for two months. The online resource I have used most frequently for guided meditations and lectures is the well-respected Insight Meditation Center. The course also follows a book called Awakening Joy. One chapter titled Step 6: The Joy of Letting Go has been particularly helpful in connecting mindfulness practice with decluttering. Additionally, we read simple, daily inspiration from the Pocket Pema Chodron reader. While tedious at times, the different aspects complement one another well.
I have grounded this practice in settling into the moment rather than in the goal-oriented striving that is so common in my life. Therefore, I am hesitant to talk about the “outcomes” other than to say that this practice continues to help me step back and see my emotions from moment to moment without getting caught up in them in ways that I used to; it helps me to recognize and understand my reactions to situations as important contributors to my happiness; and it helps me to acknowledge and more fully appreciate both the sorrow and the joy in living.
Meditation is certainly supportive of efforts to live simply and fully, but it’s not magic. I have not reached a new consciousness. I have not ceased striving, or desiring, or comparing or any of those things which come in the way of happiness. In fact, some of these things have reared their heads more frequently, and I don’t doubt they will continue, but such is the nature of the mind. It is the practice, not the outcome, which is helpful in dulling the impact of these patterns of thinking that block happiness. It is about seeing them and unhooking ourselves from their pull, a process which will continue for me as I settle… settle… settle into the present some more.
If you are interested in beginning a mindfulness or meditation practice, I would encourage you to start in any way that fits with your current lifestyle. There is no right way. Trust me- what works for classmates who are living on their own often does not work for me, as I take care of my young one solo in the evenings. But other things do work- like getting up early while the house is quite or taking 10 minutes in the car between stops during my day, or totally devoting my attention to my senses and feelings in the present moments as I play and laugh and care for Jonah at night. Most importantly, though, if you have a minute to check email or Facebook or blogs, then you have a minute for mindfulness- not to catch up on anything, not to spend time with a favorite hobby, not even for doing those activities we often call “self-care.” Unbusy yourself for a moment. Breathe. Notice. Enjoy.