Catching Up at the Chocolate Factory

16 Mar

Do you remember that hysterical candy factory scene from I Love Lucy?  The one where Lucy and Ethel are working on an assembly line at a candy factory, wrapping chocolates, and the conveyor belt keeps speeding up, but the women can’t keep up with it, and they start putting the chocolates in their mouths and …

That’s how I feel about my blog posts.  The months – and the experiences I want to write about – seem to be flying by faster than ever, and I can’t find time to get everything down on (virtual) paper.

Here it is, already half way through March, I’ve never written about all I did in January (there was more than walking Waylon, honest), I have a backlog of February meditation experiences that I haven’t yet blogged about, and I’ve begun my March experiment.

In a vain attempt to “catch up”, here’s brief, bullet-pointed overview of what else happened in February:

  • Yes, I finally sat for seventeen minutes with a raisin and Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Except I hadn’t gotten around to buying raisins so I used a dried cherry.  A dried cherry is flatter and larger than a raisin, but it still worked.
  • My friend Aviva encouraged me to try Jewish meditation, so I did, through an organization called Spiritgrow.  I did Rabbi Laibl Wolf’s short meditation called “Nurturing Positive Emotions.”  In general, I have a knee-jerk reaction to Chassidic and ultra-Orthodox rabbis, and it is not one that, shall we say, nurtures positive emotion.  However, once I got past the fact that I was listening to a guy who is – and sounds like – a long-white-bearded-Rabbi, I found this seven-and-a-half minute meditation transformative.  Basically, the meditation starts out like a typical meditation – lie down, relax your muscles, blah, blah, blah – but then Rabbi Wolf tells you to smile.  Just a little smile.  Over the course of about five minutes, you broaden that smile incrementally, feeling what it does to your face and to your heart.  The act of smiling in this very deliberately way actually made me feel profoundly happy.  Partway thought, I couldn’t help myself – I burst out laughing.  And when the meditation was over, I kept that happy feeling.  It was really incredible. Go ahead – try it.  It’ll only take you seven-and-a-half minutes.
  • I did an hour-long, pre-Shabbat-services meditation at my synagogue.  Basically, a big group of us sat on chairs in a circle, and were guided through a meditation connected to the holiday of Purim.  I liked the link to the Jewish calendar, but I must confess that I was focused and mindful for about three minutes of that hour.  The rest of the time, my brain was tugging at my sleeve like the most annoying, hyperactive two-year-old you have ever had the poor misfortune to meet.
  • I came across a book titled How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness, by Jan Chozen Bays, who is, of course, a Zen Buddhist.  The book is a series of mindfulness exercises that actually ask you to do something, as opposed to sitting or lying very still, doing nothing (yeah, yeah, I know; I’m not doing nothing, I’m paying attention to my breath or my body, but it looks like doing nothing).  So I tried one of the exercises, called “Leave No Trace,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: pick a room in your house, and, for one week, leave no trace.  I chose this exercise because, in addition to being a pig of an eater, I am the kind of person who sheds stuff as she goes – shoes in the kitchen, keys on the stairs, purse by the bed, coat thrown over a chair, etc., etc.  There can be five pairs of my shoes scattered about the house at any given moment, not to mention ponytail holders, pieces of paper I don’t know what to do with, tote bags, books I’m in the middle of reading, and basically anything else that I touch.  I don’t even notice that I’m doing it, which mean two things.  First, I never know where anything is because I have no idea where I last left it.  And, second, my husband, who is the kind of person who can tell you where in the drawer a particular pen can be found, has been forced to suffer deeply for more than two decades.  I chose the kitchen – because the bathroom would be just too difficult – and, for one week, simply paid attention to what I’d set down there, and took the time to pick it up and put it where it belonged.  Sadly, no one else noticed.  But I did.  I felt lighter, and the kitchen seemed more welcoming, and calmer, too.  I have, of course, slipped back into my old Pigpen ways, but the week made me much more aware of my surroundings, which, for me, is one of the goals of mindfulness.
  • Finally, I had an epiphany.  Actually two.
  • First, I realized that I have been engaged in mindful activities for a long time now, primarily through yoga.  I came into the month with more mindfulness skills and experience than I gave myself credit for.  I’m just abysmally bad at the lying-still-focusing-on-your-breath-and-body-making-your-mind-a-blank-slate type of mindfulness.  Which brings me to my second epiphany…
  • I realized that I am much more able to be mindful when it involves activity – yoga, walking, eating, or simply remembering to pick up after myself.

I liked what mindfulness brought to my life this past month.  I liked the calm and the centeredness I felt.  I liked the way I was able to be present, however briefly, in the small moments of my day.  I liked noticing the world around me, and appreciating my place in it.

And now, it’s on to March…

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