Being an asshole to ourselves is not the way.
We had a really nice family brunch at home this morning, and afterward as I sat at the table, my littlest guy had decided to get down on the ground and play with a truck. I took out my phone to send an email, when the sound of him playing remind me to pause; to notice, to put my phone away and to really soak in the image of him hunkered down in his tiny little body. To notice his movements, his chubby little hands, the sound of his voice.
Here’s the thing though. When I first woke up to awareness of him, I was giving myself a hard time.
“Here’s this precious little being you’ve been gifted with, and you’re choosing instead to look at a device. Seriously??”, went the gremlins.
That’s not mindful awareness, that’s kind of being an asshole to myself. That’s judgement at its finest. (Or its worst)
See mindfulness is not just about paying attention, but *how* we pay attention. And that how is through non-judgement and compassion. There’s not much use in waking up to awareness only to be mean to ourselves about where the mind has been.
So I noticed that I was caught in judgement, softened into it and just enjoyed watching my little buddy.
After a minute or two of absolute presence, I noticed that I was starting to get restless again and had kind of started to ‘force’ myself to stay there. And guess what? That’s not mindfulness either! Non-striving is one of the foundational attitudes of mindfulness, and in that moment, I was striving my ass off. Forcing myself to stay present.
I tell you all this to help you understand what mindfulness looks like in the ‘real world’. Mindfulness is just about the simplest and most tricky concept all at the same time. It’s a moment by moment awareness, choosing how and upon what we focus our attention, and crucially, how we treat ourselves when we notice that the mind has wandered. It’s a muscle we build up through repetition – each time we focus our attention is like a bicep curl for the mind. And I’m still learning. We all are.
In a class recently, a lady said to me “I’d say you never even take a drink” and I laughed so hard, I nearly spat out my vodka.
But it did make me realise that maybe students think that just because we have practice and training, that we’re some kind of Zen experts that levitate through each day. So not the case! I work very hard at this. I have plenty of my own demons, and I’m definitely a work in progress. But as the saying goes, we can be both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. We’re all perfectly imperfectly, just learning as we go and doing the best we can.
So noticing that the mind has wandered is the first step; then bringing compassion and non-judgement is the second and equally important step. And every single moment is a chance to practice and to start over 💓