When we become silent there are so many different sounds to become aware of. It always interests me how much sound there is to be found in silence.
I am noticing my inhalation and exhalation. I am aware of how my brain is thinking about all kinds of things that I need to do. My mind is also judging various people, myself and other things. I am currently aware of all of the various activity in my brain. Such a restless organ my brain is. Like someone who is on high alert. Just continually yapping away. I feel grateful for the practice of mindfulness. There was a time when I could not stop listening to all the negative thoughts my brain produced. I was my thoughts. It was madness. Now I can smile at my thoughts. Contradict them. Laugh at them. Let them go. The brain makes a terrible master but a fantastic servant.
I am breathing in. I am breathing out. I notice my body sitting in a chair. Feet on the ground. Even though my thoughts want to keep me continually moving, continually doing and judging, I have slowed down. I am in this moment. This is what stress reduction means. Being able to chill out when things inside of you and outside of you are going full speed.
It is about to rain outside. Dark clouds move across the sky. I follow the clouds with my eyes. I am very aware of what I see. Green trees, cars, houses, birds, a few squirrels. Personally, I find it much more therapeutic to spend time looking out a window than looking at a television or smartphone screen. There is so much to see from a window if I am paying attention. We have to be present or else we end up missing out on so much.
2016 has been a challenging year. It has left me with a deep sadness lingering inside of me. Many deaths and many disappointments. Many hardships. As I sit here following my breathing, looking out a window and noticing my body being supported by the chair I am sitting in, I am also aware of this sadness that is present in me. But I let it be. Leave it alone. Watch it in the same way I watch the clouds moving across the sky. I am not wallowing in it. Instead I am grateful for it because it reminds me to continually return my attention to the present moment. To become more aware. I am able to be aware of the sadness but also feel thankful that I am breathing, that I have a comfortable home to dwell in, that I have things around me that I value, that I am healthy, that I have people in my life that I love and that I am able to be aware that life is as much about loss as it is about gain. Life is filled with contradictions. Contradiction is the nature of existence. We must learn to live with the contradictions if we want to be well.
Outside my window I notice a woman letting her small dog go to the bathroom in my front yard. She then walks away without picking it up. “What the hell?” I think. I notice anger rise up in me. I am aware of thinking that I should go outside and ask her what she is thinking by letting her dog go the the bathroom in my front yard! I want to demand that she pick it up now! My heart picks up speed instead. I return my focus to my breathing. Inhaling and exhaling. I notice my feet on the ground. I tell myself that I will deal with it but I don’t need to react to it right away. I don’t even know for certain that her dog did indeed go to the bathroom in my front yard. Just looked like it. I notice that my anger passes like a wave. It is gone now. When I am finished writing this I will go outside and look. I will deal with it then. Everything will be fine. This is how we engage in stress reduction. Cancer and heart disease are not the number one killer. Chronic reactivity (stress) is. Few things are really worth the price we pay for always being reactive. The most crucial thing for mental and physical health is learning how to respond (not react) to whatever challenges arise in the present moment. Without the awareness that arises when we pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment- it is almost impossible to not react to everything.