As the temperatures drop and the leaves turn dramatic shades of orange and red, it is undeniable that Fall is here. In appreciating the colors this past weekend, I considered what it means to be mindful. Naturally, it is delicious when what is arising in the present moment evokes the sensation of pleasure, relaxation or bliss. But what about those sensations of frustration, disappointment or sadness? Even in the labeling of these sensations, feelings or thoughts there might be judgment, and a notion that the experience “should” be something other than what it is. How do we detach from placing goals on mindfulness and the desire that our experience of it be one way or another? How do we remember that mindfulness is simply awareness of what is here, now? How can we be alright with the discomfort that will inevitably arise as we change, grow and experience life in all of its variability and impermanence?
Suggested practice: Release your expectations
- Allowing yourself to arrive in the present moment, you might notice how the breath brings you fully into the body.
- In your awareness of the breath, perhaps you’ll notice its natural rhythm, the gentle movement of your ribs, the breath softening the belly.
- There is an immediacy to the breath, and when you open all of the senses. What would it be like to witness the kaleidoscope of sensations washing over and throughout the body?
Recently, a student new to the practice expressed concern about her experience because she heard the traffic outside, the clock ticking, and people moving in the room. Because she held an expectation of what the practice should look or feel like, she felt that she had done something wrong or that she wasn’t getting it. I mentioned that she was now aware of her awareness and that she was indeed, practicing mindfulness. And after a few moments of silence, smiling, she understood. As I continue to practice, it is often in discomfort that I realize I have been holding on to an expectation. And breathing through it, I remind myself that every moment is new. Sometimes, I sit in discomfort for quite a while before dropping my fists to simply be with it. And hopefully, rather than lament the experience for not being what I wanted, I am able to see the freshness of what is arising next. What comes next may be uncomfortable, painful, neutral or joyful, but it is always new and evolving, just as you are new in every moment, in every breath, transformed by every interaction, and experience. Life is continuously in transition, and the changing of the seasons is a beautiful reminder of that fact. What would it be like to allow yourself to be with whatever is arising and remain open, spacious? If we could see every moment as new and fresh, we might approach life with the zeal of a cartographer, discovering unchartered territory!
Interested in deepening your practice? Consider taking a class at The Mindfulness Center!