I’m sitting here in my chilly, backyard studio space thinking of something to write. My wife is sitting on the back deck, drinking her coffee while being absorbed in the novel she is breast stroking her way through. I have an hour or so until I need to get myself ready for work.
It is early Monday morning. I have already fulfilled my promise to myself to move more by completing my daily hour-long morning walk. I have sat in the morning sun with my shirt off so that I could absorb the recommended daily dosage of vitamin D (helps my mood immensely). I have meditated for twenty minutes and read a bit from the novel I am currently ingesting.
The week is stretched out in front of me like the wilderness trail that I used to walk along as a confused twenty-two year old man. The trail was long and straight and I was unable to see the end of it until I got to within the final hundred yards. I walked on that trail several days a week, sometimes high, sometimes not. Whenever I began the hike I remember feeling the desire to turn around and do something else. I was afraid of what was in front of me. Mountain lions? Rattle snakes? A psychopath? A health problem? I was always alone on those hikes and paranoid that if something happened to me I would die a terrible, lonely death (this was before cell phones). I would scream out for help into a void, my final words absorbed into the vast wilderness all around me.
Every time I went on those hikes my mind was filled with these unpleasant possibilities. Sometimes I would shake with anxiety. Sometimes the resistance to turn around and go someplace else would push against me like a strong wind. But I always walked straight, despite my mind’s unremitting attempts to flood me with fear and panic. Other than coming across a few harmless snakes and deers, none of my mind’s projections ever came close to manifesting in the reality of the present moment.
As I watch the clock tick its way towards the time where I need to go shower and get dressed, I notice that my mind still generates similar thought processes (mental habits). I no longer go on hikes, but the work week ahead seems to have the same effect on my mind as that hiking trail once did. I notice that my mind is generating all kinds of future projections. It is envisioning the week ahead with all kinds of images and thoughts, which generates various emotions in my body. I notice resistance, some negativity and the impulse to turn around and go someplace else.
If you are lucky, your mind does this as well. I say lucky because you have an ingrained mindfulness teacher within your head. That teacher is the uncomfortable, negative, judgmental, fearful, paranoid voice in your head that makes all kinds of conclusions about things before they happen. This teacher is the part of your brain (mental conditioning) that is continually trying to drag you out of being fully present with your life right now by swooping you up into various emotions and thoughts about things that are not happening right now!
I call this part of your brain an ingrained mindfulness teacher because every time you notice that you have been swooped up into these thoughts and emotions, you have the opportunity to bring yourself back to your breath, back to the sensations in your body, back to the sounds that you are hearing and as a result allow the thoughts to come and go like cars moving back and forth on a busy roadway. This ingrained mindfulness instructor gives you the opportunity (again and again) to relocate yourself in your life as it is right now (rather than being caught up in the flow of thoughts and emotions that continually manufacturing stress and false realities in your body and mind).
Every time you relocate yourself into the present moment you are experiencing what is often referred to as enlightenment or nirvana. I just think of it as the great relief and pleasure (or happiness) that is felt when we find ourselves free from the false realities in our head and more present within our life.
Monday morning’s are often like that long path I once walked upon. We have all kinds of thoughts and feelings about the week ahead. We imagine stressful situations, search for more pleasant potential situations (what is for dinner tonight?) and generate all kinds of unnecessary resistance and stress for ourselves (high blood pressure anyone?). The work, or the practice of mindfulness is about coming back to the breath, staying here in the right now and continuing to walk forward while allowing all those unpleasant thoughts and emotions to come and go.
To put this into a more contemporary and cliché vernacular-don’t believe the hype. With awareness of our breathing, sounds, sensations and thoughts- again and again we let the hype go and lean into the sharp points (otherwise known as Monday mornings).