I slept for eleven hours last night and woke up feeling exhausted. Did I get too much sleep? Am I finally catching up on the sleep I don’t get during the university’s academic year? Should I feel guilty for sleeping so much? (One voice inside me says, “YES. You should get up early and be productive. Don’t be lazy!” Another voice says, “Honor your body’s need for rest. You worked hard last week and it was hot and humid. Slow down and rest.”) Is my desire to sleep related to boredom (or worse, depressed mood due to not being more productive)? Suddenly it occurs to me: I haven’t been practicing mindfulness lately. I’ve been living in the past and the future for weeks, no, months. Sure, I’ve had a few mindful moments, but for the most part I’m thinking about the next thing I need to do or wondering if I did everything I was supposed to before closing up my office for the summer.
So, in an attempt to lure myself back into mindfulness, I thought I’d write a series of blog posts on this topic:
Part 1 – Why Be Mindful?
Part 2 – Reducing Stress
Part 3 – Cultivating Gratitude and Joy
Part 4 – Becoming Aware of the Body
Part 5 – Improving Concentration
Okay. Why be mindful? What’s so great about it? Well, mindfulness (which is the act of being fully aware of and engaged in the present moment without judging it) has been studied, practiced, and taught by Jon Kabat-Zinn for decades and has been shown to be helpful in reducing stress, decreasing pain, improving immune function and physical health, improving concentration, decreasing the tendency to overeat, and allowing for the experience of greater joy in life. Why wouldn’t you want to be mindful when it can do all that?!
So, how will I start my mindfulness practice today? I think I’ll devote five minutes (yes, I have to start small) to quiet listening and breathing. I’ll listen to everything I can hear, objectively identifying the sounds without judging them (for instance, usually when I hear one of my cats meow, I start judging the sound — Is she hungry? Is she in pain? Does she want to be petted?). Mindful awareness allows us to simply take mental note of what’s going on in the present — the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and sensations — without adding further thought to it or attaching any particular emotion to it. I wonder what will come of my five minutes. I’ll comment on it in my next post: Part 2 – Reducing Stress.
Feel free to join me in this mindfulness practice or start your own practice.
Peace, joy, and health,