Friday, March 11, 2016

What is buzzing in your bonnet?

What do you find when you look inside your head? - a swarm of agitated bees or a sunny mountain meadow? With me - both - at different times - There are times when I want to engage in intense problem solving and interaction with others but there are times for choosing to go to a place of peace inside my own head.   Our busy lives push us in the direction of being sharp - being on edge - being production... Wow - sounds like stress to me!
"I'm late and here I am stuck ion traffic!"

I was talking to a man who told me that he worked in the city - surrounded by urban streets, urban sounds, electronic sounds, and constant conversation.  He had a passion for the high mountains because this was when he could most fully disengage - His time to get unstructured was when he could get a few days to backpack into the High Sierra country.  He said that it took a couple of days for his parade of thoughts and ideas to quiet down in his mind -  for snatches of tunes and bits of conversation to leave his head... and then he could became fully aware of what was around him.  

An apartment can be a place of peace or a life full of internal noise"
He said that normally in the city he felt like there was a radio station or talk show going on in his head all the time and he couldn't turn it off.  (Some people do literally have the radio or TV on all the time or earplugs in their ears when they are out walking.) He had to empty the noise from his mind before be could be fully present.   This process actually has a name. It is "attention restoration" and it is something we experience when we disengage long enough to set aside our mental demands and thinking.   I'm not saying that productivity and response are wrong - the key word is balance - finding how to be able to purposely connect with our real selves.  This is not some far out left wing, cultish, hippy thing - but something we are learning to integrate into our quickly is going main stream.

I find peace walking such meadows and peaks

You undoubtedly know that the left side of our brain is concerned with logical sequential operations - like reading, stringing words together in a sentence, computer code writing, etc.  ...and the right ride of our brain is where we have more holistic operations like artistic creations, recognizing faces, expressing emotions, music, reading emotions, color, images.    Of course we normally  communicate back and forth between  both sides of our brain all the time...both are critical to our 'humanity'.  However, most people favor one side of their brain over the other. Think of the difference between Steve Jobs and Pablo Picasso.  I suppose the "noise" in Steve's mind was very sequential and Pablo most likely saw wonderful whole images...

We are both/ and... but maybe more one than the other

 Mindfulness training  is now available for everyone from airline personnel to basketball teams (Oakland Raiders), from nuns to high school students, from  prisoners to US military personnel.  ( It could save your life to know how to be fully mindful - being fully present in the now.)

Its really about balance of all three - I like to remember the past, I am not hung up on the future, but  my goal is to be able to choose to live fully right now...
So how do you do it... Basically it involves becoming more aware moment-to-moment of where you are and what you are doing.   You don’t try to control the thoughts, or seek new thoughts, or seek to make thoughts go away - Just  practice awareness of what is occurring in your mind. Its probably best to sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room for 15 minutes a day for a few days and then try to extend it up to 30 minutes.  Most western people want a quick fix - you will notice some benefits right away - but the results increase over time. The process is like imagining a blue sky and in that sky you see clouds  that appear on the horizon, drift overhead, and eventually disappear.  But in reality you are just observing your normal flow of thoughts as they come and go in your awareness. 

Thoughts are like clouds - they appear - pass overhead - then vanish
 Many people find it easier if they concentrate on their breathing - dont try to control your breath but just be conscious of observing the breathing as it occurs.  You can even practice conscious breathing as you wait for a traffic light to change or while you are standing still in line at the super market.
Sometimes you hear it said that for meditation to be correct it is necessary to shut off all thoughts - That you have to train yourself to have an empty mind - that is just as impossible as telling yourself not to think of a red elephant. Others have said that you have to breath in a way or hold your hands just so - Not true  - The goal is just simply to become aware of your breathing as it occurs naturally, be aware of the thoughts that come to mind and allow them to disappear... Start where you are.

Start where you are...