Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the leading American Rabbis, theologians, and social activists of the 20th century. He said something that I’ll never forget and that has stayed with me since the moment I heard it. In his book God in Search of Man, he wrote, “Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder.”
There’s a true story of a man I have worked with who has spent his entire life believing that his ears were not symmetrical and therefore sunglasses always looked crooked on his face. He came to accept this over time, until he came in touch with mindfulness practice.
One day as he was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom he chose to take a moment to come down from his busy mind, become present, and really look at himself. What he noticed was astonishing.
He suddenly realized that he had not been standing straight and that one shoulder was slightly lower than the other. In that moment, he chose to stand up straight and low and behold his eyeglasses were no longer crooked on his face. All this time he thought his face was lopsided in some way when in effect, it was his posture.
This story is just a metaphor for the rest of us in our lives. Over time, what do we just get used to and learn to accept that keeps us limited in how we see things? What in our lives has become routine to a point that we have lost our sense of wonder in this world?
When dealing with a myriad of mental health conditions (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, or addiction), we get stuck in routine ways of reacting to things. A challenge may arise and the automatic reaction is “who cares, I’ll never succeed anyway.” As we become accustomed to this, it can be likened to unknowingly walking around with crooked posture. Once we become aware of it, we can begin the process of straightening ourselves out.
It’s a worthy question to explore: What do you notice in your life that’s routine?
Do you watch TV every night? Do you take the same route to work …
Many of us have been victims of one form of violence or another, whether it is physical or verbal. Many of us are also perpetrators of this violence on a daily basis, sometimes unknowingly. Violence often stems from issues of fear, anger, and hatred and for almost everyone has detrimental effects to health and well-being. In practicing intentional non-violence, we actually experience effects of well-being. If you are skeptical, read on…
When I went on my first meditation retreat, one of the rules there was no killing. This meant those little insects that fly around or crawl at your feet are off limits to step on or flush down the toilet. One evening I caught a spider by my head next to my bed and immediately went to the toilet to flush it. Then I remembered the rule of no killing. So I intentionally went outside and let it out in a bush. A smile came to my face and I felt I had just saved something rather than killed it. I felt good. I thought that was interesting.
Try this experiment: Next time you find an insect in your house, take a moment to catch it, and let it outside. See how you feel during the process and after.
Note Judgments: If any immediate judgments arise, “this is stupid, ” or “this sounds like hippy stuff,”, mindfulness informs us to just note these judgments and just come back to the experience, so we can know firsthand and not just being informed by our reactive judgments that often hold us back from new experience.
In his book, Creating True Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh gives us brief practice to try to cultivate a greater sense of peace toward ourselves and the entire world:
Breathing in, I am aware of violence within myself and within the world.
Breathing out, I am determined to look with the eyes of compassion at the violence within myself and within the world.
Again, this isn’t something to just look at and judge whether it would be good or bad. This is something try on and see for yourself how it feels. Feel free to try it out. A …
A person once said to me, “I hear about all this research where mindfulness can be healing for stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain, etc.., but I have 3 kids and work 50 hours/week, where would I ever find time to sit and practice meditation for my mental health?” While having certain traditional disciplined meditations can be enormously supportive, it can be difficult to cultivate this without guidance. While there are many CDs on the topic, a community is often an important factor that supports us in sustaining this practice.
However, even without the time and place in life to set up some formal practice, from the minute you get up in the day to the moment you lay your head on the pillow there is opportunity to engage mindfulness as a way of life, opening you up to greater focus, calm, and peace.
Here is an excerpt from the upcoming Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work Audio CD.
Here are some tips on how to weave mindfulness into your workday and life:
- As you open your eyes in the morning, instead of jolting out of bed, try and see if you can make room for a STOP practice (Stop, Take a breath, Observice -thoughts, feelings, emotions -, Proceed) This tends to start the day off differently with great calm and present moment awareness setting the stage for you to be more calm and steady during challenging moments through the day.
- As you get in the shower, notice if your mind is already at work thinking, planning, and rehearsing all the things that may happen that day. When you become aware of this, gently bring your mind back to the question, what is my purpose right now, what is most important. The answer is getting clean in the shower or waking up. So bring your attention back to your senses, smelling the soap, feeling the sensation of the water on your body, listening to the sound of it in the shower. Becoming more present.
- If you have a family or partner, consider taking a morning to practice mindful listening and connecting with them before rushing out.
- As …
Enlightenment, a term often stemming from Hindu or Buddhist roots, is defined as the extinction of human suffering. Wow, that’s a tall order. Although when we sit down to actually consider this term, it’s merely an aspiration that can serve as a beacon to direct us in the direction that can be most effective for us.
Acclaimed author and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.”
This is what rings true most for me. He grounds the concept into something tangible, something we can all get our hands dirty with. At the end of many mindfulness-based groups that I run, I discuss how we can truly engage with becoming more present in our daily lives. A common objection with the concept of doing meditation is that “I simply don’t have the time or discipline.” Ok, fair enough. While it is suggested to make time for practice in order for it to seep more effectively throughout the day, we might ask, where are the spaces throughout the day to practice?