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Commentary: Always on my mind

 I am writing today about mindfulness. Mindfulness is a form of meditation, practiced by paying close attention to what is happening in your present moment, and observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judging them good or bad.  Let me confess (as you would quickly learn even if I didn’t tell you) that I know nothing about meditation or mindfulness. I am sure I could benefit immensely from getting involved in the program. And forgive me if, in discussing this fascinating practice, I fail to resist the temptation to make some light hearted or whimsical observations. No disrespect intended.   My first reading on the subject suggested this exercise: “Be mindful while washing the dishes. Focus on every single dish. Watch the water as it washes off the soap. Mindfully stack the dishes and mindfully dry them.  Focus on every step of the process.” I think if I were mindfully doing the dishes I would dry them before I stacked them, but no matter.  

My second reading on the subject seemed more helpful. It stated there are five steps to a clearer mind: 1. Write down everything on your mind; 2. List the items in three columns ─ a. to be done, b. maybe later, and c. delete; 3. Take every item from the delete column, and send it off into space and tell it to never return; 4. Put all maybe later items on a maybe later list; and 5. Take all your to be done items and put them in your planning system. If you don’t have a planning system, get one. This sounds like heavy lifting for meditation. I thought meditation was getting into a trance about smooth waters. But I can see where the five steps could definitely clear out some clutter and focus on the possible. 

 What struck me is that mindfulness sounds like what toddlers do all the time without being told to do it.  For example, toddlers in potty training all seem to want to mindfully pay attention to each detail of the process, paying special attention to the products of their grunts and efforts. “Look ─ I pooped.” Our youngest granddaughter was deliberately uncooperative and unmindful in her potty training. She stalled and delayed. Asked why she refused to sit on a big toilet, she answered, “I might fall in.”   Toddlers also like to examine their food very mindfully. I recall feeding three different children who, if presented with a dish of stewed prunes or mashed peas, insisted on picking up the mush and squishing it through their fingers while watching it very carefully. Actually eating it was in their delete or maybe later columns.  Or, when they pick their noses, to carefully, see, feel and maybe taste what they could get out.   But I’ve never known a single toddler who was stressed, depressed or puzzled about doing the dishes. 

Their mindfulness does not give them patience however.   Those who practice mindfulness mediation say that intentionally focusing takes patience which can be useful in many areas, especially relationships. One yoga instructor said, “I have been able to be more patient with the people in my life. I’m able to step back and see where other people are coming from. I’m able to see their side.” She says mindfulness may enhance memory development or restore peace in stressful situations.   My non-expert advice would be to do this:  Make a long bucket list of names, places, project and ideas, then strike-out the nonsense and the long shots and get to work (don’t just think about) the needful, desirable and practical.  Take a deep breath, breath slowly and don’t look at your poop, squish your food or taste your snot.