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 when I try to be still
Right now, if I've climbed the first mountain and feel victorious,"I'm doing it!" I think, the second mountain soon appears.
But it's actually less like a mountain and more like a hurricane in my mind. A harpoon of chaotic thoughts pound between my ears. One after the other, they race in.
Suddenly, I'm hungry and craving the M&Ms in the freezer.
And then, I'm upset. I remember getting my feelings hurt and realize it never got resolved.
But that doesn't last long because I find myself anxious about my unfinished to-do list. The bills needed paid yesterday. When am I going to get new tires on the car? I haven't raked the leaves.
And then, I'm aware of my racing thoughts and I become self-conscious about them - who do I think I am for trying this whole silence thing? The inner critic rears her head and I feel dumb for trying to be still.
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.
I manage to say NO, and I keep my phone down, but it's not over. The feeling of failure knocks and I'm once again keenly aware I'm struggling with being still - it hasn't even been a minute yet.
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. They make me feel better about the tidal wave of thoughts that like to come when I sit in silence and struggle with it.
I hear 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 - I tend not to exercise during the holidays (if I'm being honest).
But I've learned a lot lately about how we can control what we think and where our mind goes. This video has helped me a lot:
So, I'm working on this - capturing my thoughts. I want to be still. I've noticed when I don't take the time to sit in the quiet, my heart suffers the most.
The good stuff that comes from mindfulness - truth, forgiveness, grace and love - starts to slip away the further I get from the stillness. I think it will "stick" forever when it comes, but it won't. I must continue to visit its source. I must vow to be still.
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.
Even if it takes me getting some of those M&Ms out of the freezer to get ready.