Tag Archives: mindfulness

The Monastery has been Invaded

It’s called the invasion of the slow-walkers.

I sincerely wish I’d come up with that name, but I can’t take any credit. These beautiful old women coined that term a long time ago when the first Mindfulness retreat came to the Spirit Center.

Thanks to this particular retreat, the monastery grounds are teeming with near-statues of people. My first experience with them was in the dining hall, where all of our meals are now being held in silence so the retreatants can be uber-aware of how and what they are feeling and thinking while they dine.

Now, there’s something very interesting about these people, not because they are moving so slowly, and not because they’ve chosen to go on a retreat, but because they are mixing into a pre-existing community and altering the environment. I am not a part of the retreat this time around, but when I’m around them, I immediately enter a more mindful state. (How can you avoid it? No one is looking at you or talking to you or anything…) For instance, at dinner (lunch), I noticed that even though I have been eating more slowly lately, I still often take another bite of food just before I’ve finished chewing the last. Before you go, ‘eeew,’ try paying attention to how you eat. While walking back from my work at the museum this afternoon, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw one of the women crouched in the grass just behind a bush. But, I tell you what, it made me remember to walk slower and look around.

So, as odd as it is having half-zombies slowly wandering around each corner ready to startle you, it’s kind of great, too. Because they serve as a living (though at remarkably slow pace) reminder to be present to your surroundings. And really, with such beautiful surroundings we have here on the Camas Prairie, it would be shameful to do anything less.

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Building A Habit of Being

It’s officially my fourth week here at the Monastery, and I am surprised to admit, I actually feel less peaceful now than I did when I arrived. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why that is. Supposedly, a habit takes 21 days (three weeks) to form. I would have thought that three weeks of a more relaxed and simple lifestyle would leave me feeling, on the whole, more mindful, more content, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I did not expect to suddenly be some Yoda-figure, but given how comfortable and relaxed I felt initially, I think I had some expectation that my base-line peacefulness was going to remain relatively high.

But during the last week, I’ve found a lot of resistance to that sense of peace. My brain is constantly bouncing all over the place, during work, prayer, and even during my free time. In fact, the only time I truly feel at peace anymore is in the morning right after returning from a (very brief) trail run. So I ask myself, why is it that I am losing focus so easily?

In being honest with myself, I think a large part of it lies in all the goals I had set for myself for this 9-month period. I have become a little obsessed. It’s completely true that people who are used to being stressed will find things to stress about, even when they aren’t important or have no deadlines or are 100% self-imposed (#AllofMyGoals). While sitting in chapel, I’m thinking of song lyrics. While sealing envelopes, I’m memorizing names to add to my character-name document. While doing the dishes, I think about all the things I want to look up, from potential future jobs to symbols of the saints (I am very far behind on that particular area of knowledge). To reference Miley, I can’t stop.

But then, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I can stop. And I want to. The goal isn’t necessarily to stop doing those things. It’s okay with me if my mind is constantly producing new potential story ideas. But I certainly don’t want to be stressed about it.

Right now, I think that part of the answer to this for me is not forcing myself not to think about my goals. Rather, I think I need to place more focus on the ultimate, overarching goal—finding peace, being present, and appreciating each moment in an attempt to better connect with the people and universe around me. To do that, I think I may limit some of the things that feed my other goals at the expense of the bigger picture. This might mean less time online—but don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll still post once a week, as planned. It also might mean actually trying to concentrate more on meditation. But most of all, it’s going to be me giving myself the gentle reminders every time I lose track of the moment: Take a deep breath, look around, and be.