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A Beginner's Mind

By Philip D.

October 20, 2010

As I wind up my first two weeks of cultivating Mindfulness, I'm still not sure the best, most concise way of relaying what I've learned, allowing you some insight into how I'm doing it, without boring you to tears. I don't think I've ever attempted something that sounded so simple but in practice, required such a true level of commitment. Please don't let that scare you; there's a wisdom that comes with the lessons that can't help but improve your life, regardless of your HIV status.

I've already stated that I'm far from an expert so "teaching" you mindfulness seems, well ... silly. The books that I mentioned in my previous post are so well written and the exercises so manageable that if this subject really interests you, try to borrow or buy them; but remember unless you are committed to actually doing the work, to be brutally honest, don't bother (until you can be).

I've taken much of what I'm going to share in the next several posts from my Mindfulness Journal, but the rest is comprised of bits and pieces from the books/workbook I've mentioned -- mostly because I think they bear mentioning for those reading along here without them. There are eight Attitudes of Mindfulness; I plan to focus on one, each week. I sincerely hope this helps and I welcome your stories in the comment section that follows.

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Week One

Beginner's Mind -- to approach any experience as though it were fresh and new, as if for the first time with a sense of curiosity.

Had every intention of beginning my mindfulness practice enthusiastically. Unfortunately, several unforeseen last minute changes in work schedule and a tiny crisis involving an exterior painting crew, all occurring before 8am, sufficiently rearranged my best laid plans. Did learn something invaluable in the process; if I didn't make my mindfulness/meditation practice the number one priority, it wasn't going to happen as consistently as it needs to. From now on my meditation "appointments" with myself are the first put into my calendar and will be the last ones moved.

Printed out copies each of the Formal (meditation) and Informal (exercises) practice forms from the Workbook and put together a Mindfulness Journal. Going to try to use daily to makes notes, track progress, and to help navigate away from sticking points. Will add one new Attitude (such as Beginners Mind or Non-Judgment) and exercise (Mindful Eating or Body Scan) every week or so and to gradually lengthen my daily practice times as I go.

Most mornings tried to wake 30 minutes earlier than usual. Took a few before getting out of bed to mindfully start my day. That meant not first starting up the computer to check emails but instead, spending three minutes doing my Mindful Check-in. (track 2 on the CD) I simply practiced sitting up quietly in bed and observing how I was feeling when I wasn't "doing" without labeling, judging or trying to figure it out.

Then I added several minutes of Mindful breathing (track 3 on the CD) by noticing the process of the body breathing itself without attempting to control it; just observing it. Just about every time I did it I couldn't stop planning my day but I just notice that and continue on the best I can. Thanked myself for giving myself this gift of time and self care.

I follow that with a long, slow shower. I've noticed that my mind is it's most active when I'm bathing; probably because I do it so often and without a trace of mindfulness. So now, I try and engage as many senses as possible noticing the water temperature on my skin, the scents of various products or the light passing through the steam. Sound weird? Don't knock it til you try it ... just once.

One afternoon, I tried the suggested Mindful Raisin Eating (track 1 on the CD). For this exercise I spent several minutes looking at, smelling and eventually eating a raisin with mindfulness. Maybe it was just me or the day but I wasn't feeling this one. That's okay too, in Mindfulness-land.

Instead, I try to eat my lunches mindfully. That means alone, no reading text of any kind, watching TV, listening to voicemails or any of the countless other things I usually do while I eat. Instead noticing the endless flavors, textures and visuals involved in the meal in front of me. In the end, although usually far from gourmet, I realized that of the 1000 meals or so I consumed last year, very few were nearly as satisfying as some of the ones I had this week.

Every evening before bed did the Mindful Check-in and Mindful Breathing again and tried to read a few pages from one of the books.

At the end of my first week I find something very playful and safe about Beginner's Mind with a freedom from responsibility that makes it hard to resist. Much like a small child that can do something over and over again because in their eyes, it isn't the same each time. I can't help but wonder if maybe we overvalue expertise in our society.

I've decided to follow the workbook's suggestion to take every seventh day to break from my Formal meditations, but still want to try and remain mindful when I notice I'm not.

Stay tuned for a Week Two recap next week.

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See Also
The Sound of Silence
More on Meditation Techniques
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A Positive Spin


Philip D.

Philip D.

After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.


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