The preach: When you’re losing your mind(ful), slow the EFF down
I immediately wake up moody. Nothing in particular has happened yet, and although I haven’t slept well in weeks, that’s really not a great reason to bite heads off at 7am.
He looks at me and offers a suggestion: “Be mindful,” and I am immediately mindful of how I want to slap his silly face. It’s like “mindful” is synonymous with “happy” or “grateful,” and I want to challenge him to a duel over this. Again, it’s 7am.
I’m mindful. I’m the queen of mindful. I give lessons on mindfulness. How dare you, sir? I mentally validate these thoughts and continue about my day just about as mindfully as I had started it.
About a week later, my son fell flat on his face because I “mindfully” overlooked placing a pillow to prevent him from rolling out of bed at 3am. A week after that, I “mindfully” fell down the stairs with my son in my arms.
And then a week after that…the stabbing.
The stabbing certainly was mindful, perhaps not on my part, but clearly that avocado was mindful of its own survival. It was me or it. Very intentional. I’m embarrassed to say it won. The knife sliced through the avocado’s green skin into my pink flesh while my mind had been racing in circles with thoughts about everything except for what I was actually doing in that very moment—wielding a 5” razor-sharp blade. The stab launched me into pain and paranoia simultaneously—that catastrophic whirlwind of dread that grabs you by the shirt collar and pulls you into the abyss.
What if I hit a nerve and I can’t type and then I can’t work and then I’ll be out of a job… Down, down into the darkness I spiraled for a solid hour, all while flexing and straightening my hand in an attempt to contradict my crazy.
I hated to admit my husband was right for even a part of one second, but…. mindfulness had been the last thing on my mind lately.
So, what is mindfulness? First, let’s establish what it’s NOT—it’s not flying through the day from one thing to the next on physical auto-pilot while your mind is off doing its own thing. Take it from me—that’s the fast track to avocado-stab-land.
Instead, mindfulness is awareness of yourself in the moment, of recognizing that the past is gone, the future is unwritten, and the only things you can truly control are your actions right now. That’s relatively easy to do when life’s a beach and things are going your way. Those are the times to fine tune your mindfulness skills—focus on your breathing, relish the beauties of the day, pay for the person behind you at the Starbucks drive-thru, smile at the neighbor passing you on the street—so that when the day comes that life decides to test those skills, you’ll be ready to rumble.
When that chaos hits—and it hits us all—your mindfulness mettle is brought to bear. Instead of stopping to enjoy the scent of hyacinth on the gentle spring breeze, you’re flipping out that your husband left the house with the iron on… AGAIN. And never mind how harshly you treat yourself—admit it, your worst critic is usually that little voice in your head taunting you relentlessly over every mistake and shortcoming and choice in your life since… forever. Mindfulness helps you become aware that you’re doing it again. You’re letting your monkey mind toss poo around the zoo, and that’s just not going to work anymore. Mindfulness can help you shift gears into more self-compassion. In fact, just becoming aware that you’re carrying on a toxic inner dialogue can help you make it stop and retrain your mind.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It can take real effort to wake up each morning and set that intention. It’s easy to say “tomorrow” when you’re just trying to survive today. But that’s a defective strategy. Before you can say Zen, you might be staring up, dazed, at a flight of stairs you just fell down or contending with an avocado assassin.
When I lose my daily mindfulness practice, it can take several painful fastballs from the universe before I realize I’ve veered off course. But the important thing is… I finally do get the memo and find my mindfulness again. I know it’s time to SLOW THE EFF DOWN. Breathe.
And maybe be extra mindful of my caffeine intake, too.