“The path of conscious awareness is no bed of roses… It is difficult for everybody; that is something we have to face. We may not always be willing to receive the kindness that is there; we cannot always experience what happens in our practice as compassion. When we are in the middle of learning a hard lesson about our own selfishness or arrogance, it does not feel like compassion. Having an attachment ripped from deep in our being does not feel kind. Yet when it is gone, when the wound is healing, we can see that the process was one of pure compassion.” Cheri Huber
From Spirituality and Practice, the first practice is attention.
“Attention is also known as mindfulness, awareness, concentration, recollection. It is a primary practice, and not just alphabetically. We must stay alert or we risk missing critical elements of the spiritual life — moments of grace, opportunities for gratitude, evidence of our connections to others, signs of the presence of Spirit. The good news is that attention can be practiced anywhere, anytime, in the daily rounds of our lives.”
“Begin by doing one thing at a time. Keep your mind focused on whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. It is through the mundane and the familiar that we discover a world of ceaseless wonders. Train yourself to notice details.”
I believe the greatest tool I have learned in my addiction recovery journey that began 11/24/1976 has been learning how to use my mind as the observer of all my thoughts. After all these years, I woke up this morning thinking a negative thought about myself. IFS (Internal Family Systems) has taught me how to befriend myself. So I asked myself why I wanted to sabotage my day. The answer, of course, was that there is no good reason for that to happen. And so the negativity passed. By befriending it with no condemnation. Living in the moment. What peace.
Consider this example. First, you choose something to notice, in this case, your breath. It’s best to be specific, so we’ll say the air at your nostrils. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your nose. Notice the cold air flowing in, and the warm air flowing out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out, and continue this rhythm.
Seems easy, but this is more difficult than you think. Thoughts will arise, they always do, and without realizing, your mind will be wandering — usually about stories from the past or anticipated events in the future.
But don’t worry, this is the practice. Once you notice that your mind is wandering, go back to your breath.
The idea is to catch yourself getting hijacked by your thoughts, and then go back to your anchor. This is when the magic happens, and with daily practice, you’re preparing yourself for when it really matters — when life throws one of its curveballs at you.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, however, you’ll be able to catch yourself before it gets out of hand. Just like baseballs player during a big game, it’s the daily practice that prepares them for the important catch, nothing else.
One other important point…
Don’t judge yourself if you get lost in thought. As mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield once said:
“It’s like teaching a puppy how to walk. You don’t beat the puppy when she falls. You pick her up gently and start again.”
So be kind to yourself and just go back to your anchor.