September 24, 2014

I Survived

Last fall I committed to one year of unplugged Saturdays. Fifty-two Saturdays, no computer, no Internet, no exceptions. At first this seemed radical. Now it's normal. Not only did I survive the year, I thrived. Saturdays free of search engines, email, and social media are a relief not a burden.

One year ago, these were my thoughts: "I can't be unplugged every Saturday. I'll miss opportunities. I'll limit myself." These thoughts felt real, but they weren't true. The truth: I can unplug every Saturday; I missed nothing; I'm not limited, I'm free.

It's easy to believe the stories in our heads. They seem real. They are real, because that's our experience. But they're not always true. I see this regularly in meditation. Thoughts arise, I come back to the breath, thoughts arise with more fervor, I come back to the breath, different thoughts arise (wait, what happened to the previous storyline?), I come back to the breath, fear arises, I come back to the breath, different thoughts arise (wait, what happened to the fear?), I come back to the breath, thoughts arise, I come back to the breath.

Mindfulness provides a clearer lens. I don't believe all my thoughts. I try not to know for sure. Instead, I stay open to people and ideas. I surprise myself. And I savor my unplugged Saturdays.

September 17, 2014

One Thing at a Time

At a recent meditation retreat, the teacher advised: "do one thing at a time." These words, which I'd heard before, stayed with me. I sensed a cover-up, a story I tell myself: I am focused on whatever is in front of me; it's part of my practice. Unconvinced, I investigated my story. Here are a few examples from my daily life:

On the toilet, I look at my planner.
On the phone, I prune my plants.
Unloading the dishwasher, I hold multiple dishes while opening multiple cabinets.
Pouring water from the refrigerator, I grab a coffee filter.
Waiting for my photographs to upload, I check my email.
Driving, I reach for something in my purse.
Researching a mindfulness topic, I open 30 tabs in the browser.

This investigation was sobering. I wasn't doing one thing at a time. Yet it was also helpful. I saw how multi-tasking related to my mood. When doing multiple things, I feel irritated and burdened. Or, in reverse view: when I feel anxious, I strive and push. I carry too much in my arms.

To do one thing at a time, I must be truly present. I must attend to whatever arises--in me, in others, in my surroundings. It's not always comfortable, but it's my path to freedom.