Mindfulness is the ability to be present and aware, and accepting, of yourself and others. In the curriculum I've been teaching at school, we go through learning to be fully present with the five senses, eventually working on physical self-control. We then move into emotional control types of self-awareness, and then turning our awareness to others in kindness and gratitude. There is a meditation exercise called the Core Practice that helps everyone (teachers and myself included) to calm their minds and focus. The complete instructions are in the curriculum, which is called Mind Up and you can buy it on Amazon.
Linking mindfulness, nueroscience and cognitive behavioral therapy has really taken off (or at least been acknowledged by major institutes and universities) lately. The presenter, Donald Sloane, recommended a book called the Emotional Life of Your Brain, written by the neuroscientist Richard Davidson, which details the research he has done on neural networks, emotion, brain plasticity and how we can rewire our brains through mindfulness. I am very excited to read the book.
What you learn at a workshop depends on the focus of the workshop. The one I went to last week was "advanced" mindfulness, and we mostly learned about meditation and Buddhism, focusing on the four Boundless States: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Altruistic Joy and Equanimity. I was able to make connections between what I had been teaching with the Mind Up curriculum and the training and now have ideas of ways to continue and deepen the curriculum.
I realized how much I had changed over the course of the school year by teaching the curriculum and practicing the meditations. I had gone to another mindfulness workshop at the beginning of the school year, and was highly emotional during the exercises. I felt very vulnerable and exposed, and emotionally raw at the earlier training. Last week I was stable and felt centered and peaceful. The core practice takes maybe three to five minutes, so it isn't a huge time investment, and really I only practiced three times a day for three days of the week (when I'd do groups in the classrooms.) I wondered what kind of changes might occur in me if I actually had a daily meditation practice of my own! According to the research, quite a lot of changes - both in attitude and health. The benefits of meditation have been studies and are numerous and there are no detriments.
Finally, I realized something about my writing journey. I've been feeling almost ashamed for a couple of months at least, because I've been trying to decide if I've given up on being a successful, "real" author. I wrote a blog post about expectations and dreaming for the Wordsmith Studio at the end of March that explains some of my internal thoughts about my publishing experience. It might help to read the post, if you're interested, so here's the link. It's not too long. You can skim it pretty easily.
I didn't even share that I'd written the post because I was so worried people wouldn't understand and think I'd thrown in the towel. Which it kind of seemed like I had, to me. I haven't actively marketed Finding Meara in quite a while. I raised the price to a respectable (and less likely to be bought) level and have let it sit there, waiting for someone to stumble onto it. I'm writing book two at the speed of a snail on quaaludes. I'll put spending time with my family, or reading a book, or cleaning the house in front of writing. I'm doing all the things that the people who tell authors what they have to do to be a success say you can't do and be a success.
Since this is getting really long, I'll cut to the end. I was worried that I'd given up. That embracing being nothing and not daydreaming my life was giving up, not keeping faithful to my hopes and dreams. That I'd lost my way.
Last week I realized what I'd done was learn to let go of my expectations and live in the present moment. To accept where I am with publishing and writing, mommying and wifing, and to enjoy it for all it's crazy normalcy. I realized that by daydreaming constantly I was trying to live in a future of my making, and that was why it was good to stop. I am missing out on a lot of things - real and good things - if I'm trying to live in a fictional future. I'm also setting myself up for disappointment when my expectations and daydreams don't come to fruition.
I don't have an ending. Nothing wise to say to tie it all together. But by now, if you're still with me, you're probably okay with that. Maybe even thinking "Just end it already!!" So...
I don't even have a call to action. I just hope this was beneficial to someone.
Have a lovely Monday!