Personal Development

Practice

"Rotten Wood" © Paula Bailey, 2004. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Rotten Wood” © Paula Bailey, 2004. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
In mindfulness meditation I’m learning how to pay attention. Watch where my thoughts go and then bring them back to where I’m trying to keep my focus. Dandelion seeds floating in the air, they dance around unaware of the fact that they are “supposed” to be doing something.

You can’t pass judgment on where your brain decides to go. It’s interesting. It’s something to pay attention to. But there is never anything wrong with what you’re thinking about. There is no direction you’re supposed to head. The mind does what the mind will do you and you just have to let it. Coax it back to your breath. Ease it back into your center. Try not to get angry or frustrated with how it behaves when you let it run around without you. None of it has to mean anything. It doesn’t have to hold weight. Doesn’t have to change, define, or shape anything about you. It just is and that’s all it has to be.

“That’s interesting. I’m surprised that you decided to go there. Come back now.”

Outside of my practice, though, it’s always judgment. I hate the conclusions that I come to. I catch myself going places I don’t want to go and I can’t seem to stop myself. Can’t seem to find my way back. Careening down cliffs, rocks sliding from under my feet. Nothing to grab on to. Nothing to slow me. I’m so angry with my poor footing it doesn’t occur to me I could decide to stop. There doesn’t have to be some external force to ground me. It’s just another form of practice. It’s not the act of changing what you think about all the time. It’s changing which things you decide to let yourself keep thinking. You can see thousands of different trails everyday, but you don’t have to follow them all. They are not all stories that need telling. They do not all hold wisdom.

Most of them don’t.

The ones that make the most impact, the ones that build things. You’ll know them. But they wait. They lie dormant for the time when all the other thoughts are quiet. When they all bed down for the evening, sure they’ve made you scared enough. Insignificant enough. Worthless and unworthy enough. They’ve made you full enough of doubt and anger. They’ve infected the trunk enough to spred to the roots and take out the whole tree. Anything to keep you from growing. From changing. Anything to keep you stagnate. I don’t believe they have bad intentions. They’ve hurt before. They’re intimate with the fragility of things and they want to make sure you don’t get soft around the edges. Stay sharp. Stay tuned in. If you always expect everything to hurt then there are no surprises. The needle you watch pierce the skin always hurts less than the one you step on by accident. They know you know, so they can take a break. Regain their strength. You will keep your heart shut tight and your eyes wide open in their absence.

That’s when you hear the other ones. The useful ones. The ones worth listening to the. The thoughts that explain where the other thoughts come from. The thoughts that push your hair away from forehead and hold your face in their hands. Those timid thoughts with the voice of a younger you. The you that is not yet overtaken with the notion that most things are the way they are. Always have been. Always will be. These miniscule thoughts. They fight periously to gain enough volume. They want you to hear them over everything else. They want to tangle around the ribbon of hope still clinging to your heartstrings. They try to tell you that maybe, just maybe, you’re wrong.

There is a goodness hiding somewhere in you and you don’t have to listen to your day in, day out narration to the contrary. You don’t have to take it as gospel that you’re broken. Unmendable. That you only have value in parts.

You are not a scrap metal human being. They want you to know that. Believe them.

14 thoughts on “Practice

  1. Beautifully written.
    The writer, Ray Bradbury, is described as having a ” contagious hereness and nowness”. ( Found at brainpickings .org). That phrase, along with a quote from either Lily Tomlin or Jack Kornfield that goes:
    “giving up all hope of a better past” has helped me live in the present.

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  2. “It’s not the act of changing what you think about all the time. It’s changing which things you decide to let yourself keep thinking.”

    Ain’t that the truth, Ruby?

    All the monkey chatter…we can’t stop the chatter, but we can choose what to listen to.

    The book I’m reading just described meditation as the act of coming home. No matter where we are or what we’re doing or thinking, we can always center and come home to ourselves. I liked that comparison a lot.

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  3. I really liked how you said, “You can’t pass judgment on where your brain decides to go”. It reminded me of what I heard once on a podcast. When the mind drifts away while meditating, it’s an opportunity for us. It’s an opportunity for us to practice the skill of bringing it back every time it runs away.

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