I once was forced to go to this professional development for psychologists on “teaching mindfulness,” which is basically the idea that kids (and adults) benefit from being aware and present. I have to say, I was really hoping for the latest brain-based research on the mind-body connection, because I love me some data. Instead, it was hours of us practicing out own mindfulness. During the busiest time of the year, we were taken through a series of activities such as breathing like rainbows, with arms outstretched in a slooooooow arc, and mindful walking. That’s right. Mindful walking. We all had to walk super sloooooooow and be really aware of how our foot felt touching the ground and whatnot. Let me tell you, I was mindfully texting the whole time, because I had a to-do list a mile long.
I’m afraid mindfulness is not for me. I find yoga too slow (next pose! next pose!) and I quit Tae Kwon Do after the first month because I just wanted to kick in some things and Master Kang insisted on a slow process where you have to have patience and stuff. And I certainly couldn’t relate to the presenter when she said, “I am so mindful, that when I put down the dish soap, I really feel it. It’s amazing.”
I have channeled all of my energy into my life and work, and school psychology appears to be a good match for me. Every day is different, there are tons of deadlines, crises, and things that have to be done right away. I go! go! go! All day long. There is no time for rainbows and walking super slow, thank you very much.
Well dang it if sometimes, the things we are resistant to actually end up being just what we need.* The very thing I rolled my eyes at at the "professional development" became pretty useful last night when I was in traffic on the San Francisco Bay Bridge trying to get home, with 8 hojillion people. After an hour, I had made it exactly one half mile towards my home. Every time I inched forward, a car would cut me off and I’d be in the same friggin’ spot. Then, a small snail surpassed me (in my mind) and I found myself getting increasingly annoyed. There was only crappy music on, and NPR had a lame guest. Then, I generously let this guy in my lane, in an effort to pay it forward and whatnot, and there was no “thank you” wave. RUDE. But, instead of getting even more upset, I took a breath, and started trying the mindfulness crap. I started by generating reasons for his rudeness, mindfully.
1) Perhaps his wife is in labor and he is trying to get to the hospital and is so distracted by his joy and anticipation that he is going to be a dad that he failed to notice my generosity.
2) Perhaps he lost his peripheral vision in his left eye in the Gulf War and did not see that I was so generous to let him in. A clear war hero deserves to get home .4 seconds before I do.
This went on and on in my head, and then I found myself laughing. On a roll, I started thinking of all the positive things I could think of in that moment, like the fact that I am in this car in a commute because I have a job in a recession. I was suddenly also mindful of being in my warm, toasty, comfy car. I became aware that a fabulous song had just came on the radio.** My mood lifted. I started singing and dancing to myself, and when I hit my crescendo, I suddenly became mindful that the people in the cars around me were staring at my erm…performance… and they were smiling. A guy gave me a thumbs up and laughed, and a motorcycle dude gave me a fist pump of approval. Mindfulness worked.
But I’m still not going to be mindful of the dishwashing soap as I clean up after Thanksgiving dinner. Old habits die hard, what can I say?
*Example: When my best friend tried to get me to join Facebook, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Why would I need to join that?” I stand corrected, Kendra. I love Facebook now. Especially the lively discussions that have ensued on the blog fan page recently. I will be sure to give thanks tomorrow on Thanksgiving if you stop by and become a fan!
**It wasn’t Air Supply’s classic ballad, “Making Love out of Nothing At All” if that’s what you’re getting at.