I found myself sitting on my couch this weekend feeling that I really needed to take some time for myself, some down-time. Simultaneously, I felt that the need to get up and do something because my thoughts were flying wild, bouncing from one topic to the next. Before I committed to any activity I took the opportunity to look over Adrienne Glasser’s latest piece, the guest blog presented below. It’s effect on me was calming and energizing. Her wise and compassionate words helped me. I offer these same words to you and trust that they will be helpful to you:
If you’re anything like me, your mind won’t be still for a second. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stop thinking. What a bummer! But a true meditation practice allows for thoughts to be part of the experience. Even then, the slowness of sitting sometimes feels intolerable. In many instances, I can’t tolerance sitting. In those moments, despite my strong belief in the great value of meditating, it seems like a waste of time. Other things seemed more important.
In my 20’s, family illness filled my time, I was confronted with crises of life and death. I needed an active meditation practice and was introduced to Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation. His practice of mindfully washing dishes was helpful to me. I found that my amped up nervous system could get a respite while in motion. I practiced activemindfulness and eventually learned to resume a seated meditation practice.
Recently, I became a mother for the first time and became preoccupied with worries concerning my newborn’s vulnerability. My sitting meditation practice fell apart as I felt speeded up with worry and unable to calm myself without physical movement. So I once again adopted an active mindfulness practice, one in which I used motion to help release tension. Many of the active mindfulness practices fall under the umbrella of what Buddhists call the Noble Eightfold Path or “The Middle Way” (like this blog!) This path is a practice of: Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. “Right” meaning an intention of non-harm (not as in right vs. wrong).
Below are my current favorite ways to practice active mindfulness that are part of The Eightfold Path. I hope these practices below will be an alternative to what Ethan Nichtern calls “The commuter” in his book The Road Home. The commuter runs to ease her pain. The running from one quick fix to the next only fuels this suffering. The practice of The Eightfold Path through Active Mindfulness allows for a bit more slowness and presence that can ease suffering, even if we are noticing seconds of stillness in action.
1. Mindful Presence
Throughout the day I turn my view to being fully aligned in the moment with another person. This can be practiced through mindful listening in a conversation with a friend or loved one (Right Mindfulness) or pausing before speaking (Right Speech). Recently I practiced Right Effort, just having a loving presence towards others. I would start my practice with feeding my infant daughter and radiating my care for her to others, extending that presence to family, friends, clients and even strangers.