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Patience and Paradox

By Philip D.

November 8, 2010

Week Three

Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and expect that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.

I love this definition from Jon Kabat-Zinn. I realize that patience is the difference between smart and wise and have come to understand it's something that only years of experience can provide us.

My morning ritual is becoming just that. If I ceased developing my practice right now, and only kept this part in place, I could easily say the quality of my life has improved. By first mindfully completing the tasks that are most important like meditation, grooming and feeding my body and putting things that I now view as mindless, like emails and voicemails, last, I have undoubtedly changed the way I feel about weekday mornings, for the better.

Those of you who are also following the books I mentioned may have noticed that I have combined exercises and Attitudes from both, since they often share similar context. We are encouraged to modify and build our Practice in a way that works best for us.

In addition to my usual Mindful Check-in/Breathing, twice a day, I also attempted the Body Scan once every day this week. The CD offers several versions; although at first, the 45-minute one is recommended for beginners.

To me, the Body Scan was easier than the Mindful Breathing because I had tangible body parts to focus on, rather than just my breathing. However, trying to find 45 minutes (in a row) each day to scan my entire body from head to toe took just about all the patience and scheduling finesse I was capable of. Starting at my feet and working upward slowly, I take a few minutes to notice and be aware of each and every body part along the way. On an average day, I spent roughly half the time present in the here and now and the other half squirming, itching and pondering just about everything except my elbows and toes.

This is a powerful tool to exercise my ability to be present. The program at UCSF Osher suggests doing this one once a day, six days a week for at least the first month. They have stories of high blood pressures lowering substantially and sleep/wake cycles normalizing without medications or other lifestyle changes, when dedicated participants consistently practiced this particular exercise for six weeks. No one ever said changing years of thinking a certain way was fast or easy but I must admit, there is something I like about this one.

Week Four

Non-Striving -- I found this is a tough Attitude to describe so once again, I'm going to default to Jon Kabat-Zinn's words:

Almost everything we do is for a purpose, to get something or somewhere. But in meditation this attitude can be a real obstacle. That is because meditation is different from all other human activities. Although it takes a lot of work and energy of a certain kind, ultimately, meditation is a non-doing. It has no other goal than for you to be yourself. The irony is that you already are. This sounds paradoxical and a little crazy. Yet this paradox and craziness may be pointing you to a new way of seeing yourself, one in which you are trying less and being more. This comes from intentionally cultivating the attitude of non-striving.

Mindfulness is about simply being present and doing something for no particular reason or desired outcome, without judgment. It can be stress free and actually fun and playful. Here's a few things to do you may not have thought of:

Getting or giving a massage
Listening to music or playing an instrument
Watching a candle or fire
Making love or intensely passionate sex with a new "friend"
Taking a long drive
Shooting pool
Building a jigsaw puzzle
Singing alone or with others
Making a gift for someone
Noticing stillness in the early morning or evening
Doing something you've never done before

***You might try any or all of these without headphones, smart phones, or other things that could cheat you out of the full experience. They will all still be there for you when you finish playing. I promise.

In honor of this fine definition, I am going to cease the typing and lower the striving way down.


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