“Can we tell ourselves when we need to walk away from chatter, turn it off entirely for half a day, or a full day, or a whole weekend, ease into a realm of something slower, but more tangible?
Can we go outside and listen?"
~ Naomi Shihab Nye
"Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people. And thanks to increasing press freedom and improving technology, we hear about more disasters than ever before. This improved reporting is itself a sign of human progress, but it creates the impression of the exact opposite."
~ Hans Rosling
It wasn’t until I stumbled clumsily toward a daily mindfulness practice in my mid-thirties that I discovered that there were ways I could get better at feeling my feelings.
Before intentionally working on my attentional skills, I had no idea how often I escalated my unpleasant feelings and zipped past the pleasant and subtler ones.
The kind of self-awareness that mindfulness exercise develops has helped me become more objective about my subjective experiences.
What does it mean to let our thoughts drift by like clouds?
Shifting our awareness from what our thoughts mean to how they fluctuate is an attentional exercise that develops liberating abilities over time.
Observing the movement of clouds can provide a glimpse into how we can relate to mental activity more objectively, but it oversimplifies things when the analogy is taken too literally.
The real magic happens when we become intimately familiar with the moment-by-moment experience of being alive. Instead of trying to force complete experiences to happen. I focus on setting the stage for them to happen by exercising my attention.
When remembering to notice that we're alive becomes a habit, we begin to erode the internal friction that obscures our view of the richness we're swimming in every day.
There are many obstacles to establishing a consistent mindfulness routine. Three big ones are finding time to practice, being distracted by thoughts, and feeling bored.
I discovered an exercise that obliterates all three simultaneously, but I’m pretty sure you’re going to hate the idea of it.
As with any good attention exercise, it leverages an ordinary activity as an opportunity to build capacities that for responding more effectively to the challenges of ordinary life.
"I have a very hard time with things, you know, just being quiet. Like, if I sit alone, you know, for ten minutes with nothing happening, you know, which I guess some people would call meditating, I just lose my mind. I'm, like — how does anyone deal with this horrible silence and awareness that everything's almost over?"
~ Marc Maron
"If I could explain what the one biggest shift has been from when I was 17 and suicidal to today and 22 and a lot healthier place, it's just that before I used to try to run away from my pain and tell no one about it, and now I try and run right into it and tell the people closest to me about it."
~ Kevin Breel