Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, September 4, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. May you be present and make it meaningful 😊
I haven’t met anyone yet who uses Zoom who has not received the message, “Your internet connection is unstable.” Those of us who have experienced this, we know what it’s like. In some cases, the voices of others become digitalized and inaudible. Sometimes it’s like watching an old Kung Fu movie where the mouth is moving, and the translated voice-over is completely disconnected. At other times, everyone freezes, and we miss much of what was said. Occasionally, we lose the connection completely and drop out of the room. Along with being frustrating, it’s distracting and it’s difficult to fully pay attention. Unfortunately, our connection to the present moment isn’t much different – it’s unstable.
Harvard researchers discovered that people are lost in their wandering mind roughly 47% of the time. Though I’m getting better, my experience would suggest that I was lost in my wandering mind about 70% of the time, or more. Nevertheless, according to Harvard’s studies, on average, roughly 47% percent of the time we are not present. It is when we are lost in our wandering mind that we walk into a room and can’t remember why. At some point between the time when we realize that we need something from another room and when we actually move towards getting it, our mind produces a distracting thought which is pervasive enough to make us forget what we were after in the first place. And to think that it may only take us a few seconds to get from one room to another.
Sometimes we forget what we are talking about while in a conversation. “Wait, what were we talking about?” Here again, this is a result of our distracted and wandering mind. Just like when our internet connection is unstable, when we get distracted during a conversation, we miss much of what was said. Sometimes this happens at the very beginning of a conversation which is why we can’t remember a name one minute after they tell us – we weren’t there when they told us.
I remember one retreat where the facilitator asked us if we ever lost our car keys. Like everyone else, I raised my hand and was thinking, “Uh ya, it happens all the time!” I found myself quite miffed when the facilitator suggested that I didn’t lose my keys at all, I was somewhere else when I put them down. When I set my car keys down, I was lost in my wandering mind. It was a big “ah ha” moment for me – it made sense. This was about six years ago. I feel like it was the first time that I fully realized just how incredibly unmindful that I have been for much of my life. Hence, 70% sounds more realistic for my experience.
It is also during this time of being unmindful when we do or say things that we don’t intend to and sometimes later regret. This happened to me just a couple days ago; something came out of my mouth that was quite stereotypical and prejudice. Immediately after I said it, I realized that I wasn’t fully present when I said it. Had I of been mindful, fully present, I would not have said something so biased. My mind was simply saying whatever it wanted without my permission. I was on autopilot.
This whole idea of being present and lost in a wandering mind is a funny thing. When are lost in our wandering mind we are not aware that we are lost, until we do. Until we “wake up,” our mind would have us believe that we are experiencing the present moment. But when we do wake up, it’s like a “coming to.” Maybe you’ve had the experience of driving down the road and “snapping out” of whatever you were thinking to yourself, “how did I get here already?” When we “snap out of it,” or “come to,” these are mindful moments. In that instance, we become present. We then merrily, or not so merrily, continue driving down the road with present moment awareness until we once again get lost in thought. Considering Harvard’s study, the idea that we are not present 47% of the time while we are doing something that requires our full and undivided attention, is to me, quite frightening – “I’m sorry officer, the car came out of nowhere.”
This, my natural inability to live with a stable connection to the present moment, is my primary reason for practicing Mindfulness of Breath (single point) meditation. There are hundreds of meditations and each one is designed to foster a specific state of mind and/or being. Know why you are meditating and what the meditation you are using was designed for. It matters. You wouldn’t take an antacid for a headache. Meditating on Loving-Kindness won’t help develop mental stability. Mindfulness of Breath was designed to address our unstable mind. When we practice and follow the directions of a single point meditation, we are training the mind to be more stable which creates the condition for us to be in the present moment for greater amounts of time. During the meditation, each time we notice our mind wandering, that is a mindful moment. We then let go of the thought and return our awareness to the breath – Mind Training.
Having practiced this meditation for a few years meow, in no way can I say that I never get distracted, it happens all the time. But with time, practice, and patience I have developed the ability to stay present for longer periods of time and I’m able to recognize sooner when my mind has wandered away from the present. Unlike my internet connection, my mind has become more stable.
I love you and there is not anything that you can do about it.
A Work in Progress,
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