Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Mindful Raisin

I am blessed to be a member of a 12 step program.   Along with membership, comes a tool kit which contains a variety of useful implements I can pick up daily, preserving the quality of my life by maintaining my house (me).  It works best when I leave it sitting on my bedside table where I can easily see it.   Sometimes, I really don’t much feel like using my toolkit.  It can be time consuming and often interferes with what I really want to do.   So, I pick it up and move it out of sight, into the back of the closet.  There it sits, getting all cobwebby.  Before I know it, winter arrives, and I haven’t taken the time to change the furnace filters, or weather proof my windows. A shivering mess, I then remember the tool kit in the closet, and pull it back out to do the needed repairs.  It takes longer, and sometimes I have to call for outside help because I have neglected to protect “my house” from daily wear and tear.  Why don’t I just remember to leave the damn thing on the bedside table, use the tools each day and avoid the cost of rebuilding?  
I have to say, I am much better these days about using my tools. Recently, I have moved the kit from the bedside table to a belt,  buckled around my waist.  I know this foresight has come about in the last year or so with the many uncertainties that could easily plague my serenity.  I'm not saying I have arrived at a place of complete urban renewal, but for someone who has lost her job,  still grieving some lost dreams, and remains stuck in a place I have been trying to escape for the past five years, I am maintaining remarkably well!  And, I am going to give credit to my B & D (Beautifully Designed) tools hanging on my hips. 
Because of my propensity for extremes, I tend to think, if some tools are good, then more are better.    The tools I currently have at my disposal, found in the 12 step process, are more than enough for me to maintain and continue to grow.  But, I believe if I want to evolve, there are some things I could do to help that process.  Several years ago, the term, the Now, the Present Moment came into my awareness. I read the books, joined the study groups, and learned enough to be able to spout the lingo, but sure couldn’t apply the science!  This past, desolate, winter (both weather and of the soul) cooped up at home, I began to try meditation.  My persistent “monkey mind” never really could settle into a state of emptiness, allowing spirit to speak.  Mindfulness was a word that kept popping up for me.  In conversations, on television, in books and articles I was reading. One thing I now do know, when I intuitively sense a message, it behooves me to pay attention.  Something was tugging at me and whispering “sweet mindfulness” into my ear.  I headed to the bookstore and purchased a DVD collection called “Mindfulness for Beginners” by Jon Kabat Zinn.  The first DVD was an explanation of what mindfulness is.  My novice understanding is; it’s the ability to stay in the present moment and observe, non-judgementally. No taking the shovel out and digging up the past, nor, using the periscope to see what’s on the horizon.  Focusing on what is taking place right now, along with the feelings and sensations in that moment, objectively. Sort of like observing from the other side of the room. Yikes...Wouldn’t it be boring?  What would I do without the heart pounding drama of the past or the delusional fantasy of the future? Nonetheless, It felt different from meditation.  Rather than clearing my mind, I would be permitted to have a single moment or object of focus.  I just may be able to handle that.  
Dropping DVD number two in my boom box, I was ready to begin an exercise in mindfulness practice. The first one, instructed me to get a solitary raisin. Of course, I brought in the box. A little chime sounded.  “Sit comfortably in a chair and close your eyes. Dr. Kabat-Zinn, instructed with a voice that sounded like liquid silk. “Now, he said, take your raisin and raise it slowly to your nose.  What does it smell like?”  “Cardboard,” I thought. I had to be careful and sniff lightly.  I didn’t need the raisin embedded in my nostril.  “Now, he intoned, take the raisin and gently roll it between your fingers.  What does it feel like?  Is it, ridged, smooth, moist or dry?”  Hmmm...It feels like a shriveled morsel of food swept out from under the refrigerator!  “Next, the good Dr. said, take your raisin and put it up to your mouth and place it between your lips. Does the texture feel different than when it was between your fingers?”  Still feels like a “food bunny” from the kitchen floor to me. Seems the raisin and I made out for a long time before finally the instruction was given to actually move it into my mouth.  But, “Ahh..ahh..ahh.. don’t bite down,” he says.   You’re kidding me, right?  Now, I am told to roll it over my tongue, feel the texture, nibble gently, releasing a tiny bit of flavor onto my tongue.  Oh, my God!  My life has become reduced to raisin foreplay?  Still, he instructs... “No biting down, just examine the raisin, every crevice.”  Stomach juices are beginning to flow, cry out for fulfillment, and I can’t stand it anymore.  My teeth bite into my soggy raisin and quickly swallow it up!  Waiting to be chastised by Dr. Kabat Zinn,  I am relieved I brought the box in with me and quickly pop another raisin into my mouth before he somehow catches me. I complete my exercise with my new raisin. 
Some things take a lot of practice.  I'm  a creature of instant gratification.  I don’t want to be, and I am working on it, but it's a long road ahead. These days, Dr. Kabat-Zinn and I snuggle a few times a week, in the comfort of my den, and I am getting better!  Many things are subtly changing. My perceptions are different.  I feel as if I've missed out on the slow deliciousness in my life.  When at the park with my littlest grand-daughter, I notice so many delightful details now.  I observe how her little body shivers with anticipation when I get ready to push her on the swing, her giggle of delight when I chase after her, the way she squares her shoulders boldly, showing off her bravery as she climbs up to the top of the big slide now.  Enjoying dinner last week with a good friend, I really notice how easy our conversation is and the incredibly comfortable feeling in her presence. I see how animated she becomes and her eyes soften when she talks about her recent visit with her little grandson. Observing how we mutually dig into the chips and salsa with the gusto of deprived sailors, at sea for too long, makes me chuckle.  This practice of mindfulness is changing how I view my personal realm and helping slow me down and take notice of the beautiful minutia of my life. The ordinary seems to vibrate with meaning and connection most days.   It's enabling me to achieve what Dr. Kabat Zinn asks of us when we start this journey: Begin seeing the world you actually have, not the one you think you are missing - Jon Kabat Zinn  
I think I will.