A few months ago, I got pretty good at mindfulness - I learned how to be still. I even went to a retreat where a mindfulness guru came in and led our small group in an exercise. There we all sat on colorful, braided mats with crossed legs, closed eyes and open palms. We breathed in and breathed out, and we listened to the sounds all around us.
At that point in my life, the 30 minutes didn't feel long enough. But I'm not sure I'd say that today.
Maybe it's the holidays approaching us, or perhaps it's because I've got surgery on the mind, but I'm finding the stillness of life to be difficult right now. The first mountain to climb is the one where I actually get alone, shut the computer, power down the phone, turn off the TV and invite the quietness of the room.
But even if I manage to do this, the second mountain comes and it's even harder than the first.
The tidal wave of thoughts
This second mountain is less like a mountain and more like a hurricane with tall tidal waves. A harpoon of chaotic thoughts pound between my ears. One after the other, they race in. I'm anxious. I can't stop thinking about the "what ifs." My to-do list floods me, and I'm nervous about what's unfinished.
Suddenly, I'm hungry and craving the M&Ms in the freezer.
The urge to pick up my phone and check my email, or social media, becomes very strong. Not because I'm expecting a message, but because I don't know what else to do. There's something about seeing a notification pop up that makes me feel important and worthy, everything the stillness is not doing for me.
Even if I manage to say NO, and keep my phone down, it's not over. The feeling of failure likes to remind me I'm struggling with being still. Meditation and mindfulness sound like such wonderful things, but why are they so hard for me?
Exercising the mind when I want to be lazy
I've read a few resources on mindfulness and prayer that say being still takes practice. I've also heard that meditation is like strengthening a muscle; the mind must be put through exercises in order to sit in a place of stillness for any length of time.
So I guess it makes sense why I'm struggling so much. My mind has not been exercised. But I've learned a lot lately about how we can control what we think and where our mind goes. So, I'm working on this.
My first step is simply capturing my thoughts because I truly want to be still. Letting them pass through my brain without judgement, and with compassion, isn't easy... but I'm trying.
I've noticed that when I don't take the time to be still and sit in the quiet, my heart suffers the most. The good stuff that comes from mindfulness—stuff like truth, forgiveness, grace and love—comes on stronger the more I exercise.
I may never be a mindfulness guru, and I'm certainly not an expert at this, but I'm vowing to at least try to get better and be still this holiday season. My mind and heart are ready.