Mindfulness is impossible. (Did I just stand up?)

Photo by Evelina Zhu on Pexels.com

Am I standing or sitting? Seriously. I have no idea. I have recently discovered that I live in an almost entirely disembodied state.

Let me explain. I have been using the Headspace app for about a year now, and working my way through some of their programs. I’m currently doing the series on managing anxiety. It is a ten minute meditation each morning, and some suggested practices to implement in daily life.

A big part of the program is the practice of noting. During practice, you note when you become distracted by thinking or feeling, then go back to your object of focus (the breath). This is also a practice you can take into daily life, to notice when you are distracted from the task at hand.

Another recommendation is to note when you change position from sitting to standing, in order to become more aware of your body. Easy enough, right?

Nope. It’s actually impossible (for me) to notice when I stand up or sit down. I remember to notice only when am not actually moving.

What this tells me is that I am not present in what I am doing. My mind is doing one thing, my body is doing another, and I’m probably trying to squeeze in a third, like whatever I’m actually working on.

Is it so bad to be distracted? It’s normal and human to be caught up in our own busy minds or swept away by feelings. The point of any mindfulness practice is not to stop thoughts or feelings, it is simply to notice them.

When you experience anxiety, your body is trying to send you a message that something is not quite right. Unfortunately, what could be a polite note is often delivered by your nervous system as a blaring alarm. It’s hard to decipher the message when you are in panic mode.

What mindfulness and noticing thoughts allows you to do is to start to decipher those confusing and alarming messages. If you notice a thought you can just label it “thinking again!” and move on. You may start to be able to be less identified with your thoughts and feelings. They are yours, but they are not you. And given a moment they will pass.

What many of us who experience anxiety tend to do is get caught up in our thoughts, which feed the anxious feelings. One way to short-circuit that loop is to put your attention on your body. And one way to practice embodiment is to simply notice positional changes: sitting, standing, walking, stopping.

I’m still practicing, even after three weeks of pretty much total failure to notice when I stand or sit. This is not a skill that will help me get a better job or improve the quality of my relationships. But it might help me be more present for all of it.

Ok, standing up now.

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