In the 1 ½ hours I no longer have to commute to work due to teleworking, I’ve put my extra time to good use. I’ve joined additional Facebook groups. First, I stayed in the couple of groups in which I was already a member, and tried to post upbeat messages, along with happy photos from my family stash. After all, we are not supposed to be milling around close to people, so my only subjects are my husband, my grandson, my dog, and me. For cuteness, attractiveness, appeal, and appearing cheerful, my 2-year old grandson wins hands down, followed closely by our labradoodle.
Interestingly, not all groups take all upbeat messages for their pages. They want upbeat messages about what it is they do or are interested in. For example, in a meditation focused group, you can post an upbeat message about meditation (i.e., Meditation Makes Me Smile!), but not one about the science of smiles and how they may make you happier. I learned lots of rules and regulations about posting.
Some places only let you post about the topics currently being discussed. I looked into that one, but it was confusing – how did new topics get introduced, if you could only bring up existing topics? I tried getting around it when a post was about illness and pain by posting about the science of how distraction and laughter can sometimes help to reduce pain. It didn’t work. They noticed my not-so-subtle change in the subject, from pain to happiness.
I decided to try some new sites since I really wanted to “help out” by offering positive vibe one-moment snapshots to those that might need them. Not to say one should avoid the sadness, sorrow or tragedy that is happening in the world, but to offer the idea that even in periods of distress, there can be recognizable moments of joy.
Also, being the good Occupational Therapist that I am (along with other things), I know that we can change our patterns of behavior by recognizing them, removing them, and replacing them with other actions. Doing is Becoming! I also knew that changing a habit takes about 66 days, well…depending on the person and the circumstances, anywhere between eight and 254 days, but an average of 66!1
…and after days in the house teleworking, helping with childcare, hearing nothing but negatives on the news, on Facebook, and from my friends, I needed a habit change. A few words of happiness, gratitude, or simply not facing and hearing only the despondent news. What better way to make a change than to try and have everyone change with me?! On Facebook?!
At first, my postings got lots of reads! Cute kid doing cute things in a way only kids can do them, and be grateful for it! Their little mouths form round “oooohhhhs” of surprise when you even offer them a piece of banana (which they’ve had before), but now you said it in a whisper! “oooohhhh!” they whisper back with their eyebrows raised in amazement. A daily dose of noticing how happy a child is with the new things he is discovering is a great reminder for us to look at our own silver linings in our grown-up realms! Our own slivers of grace in a grumpy, greedy and virus-suffering world.
They work. They do work to help remind us. I noticed there were lots of them on Facebook, not just mine. I sought a larger audience. I joined Facebook groups on gratitude, thankfulness, joy, and energy! I looked at healing, healthy, wholesome groups, women’s goddess groups, and mindful, meaningful, magical groups!
I built readership then!
And then I didn’t.
I tried harder.
I wrote more. I wrote less. I put in pictures. I put in only words. I took funny stuff from other folks and reposted (I’m not that funny myself). I tried puns and funs and even music. Then, I hit a human wall.
I hit it like a ton of bricks and bounced back and right onto my fanny. Someone wrote in to one of these groups and asked how others were dealing with loneliness. I’d just read an article on loneliness and the need for human companionship for one of my upcoming postings and gleefully shared tidbits of science…and a reply came…from another source – to the question about loneliness.
It said “first, I remind myself that loneliness is an illusion”.
My mind screamed What?! An illusion? People need companionship, babies need nurturing, there’s something called failure-to-thrive, and…its’ a basic human need!
Deep Breath, in and out, another breath, in and out…as my mind continued its’ tirade, but began to slow in rhythm, she’s writing because she needs help with dealing with this now, your answer is too esoteric…ethereal… it is too OUT THERE! I know we are all connected, but really!
Breathe, Valerie, and sit with it. Sit. Sit quietly. Sit and let the thoughts flow. See them and let them pass by, again and again and again.
See the thoughts for what they are – thoughts. See the other persons’ answer for what it is, a second persons’ thought. Wait, sit, watch. Observe.
This is mindfulness. Not my comments. Not his comments, but the sitting and the open, unrestricted, realistic noticing.
This recognizing what is going on, in a particular way – letting myself see it all and not judging, and not having to jump in and react.
I was most certainly judging, as if I knew what someone needed, as if I had the answer. In those moments of sitting, I acknowledged my reaction as over-reaction. I saw my helplessness in the larger wake of the wave created by current events, and my efforts to quell the tide for others, as a searching to subdue the surge for myself too. I saw my overwhelm [SA1] and inability to remove illness. I knew he was ‘right’ in what he shared, for himself…and maybe for others, even as I was ‘right’…even as we both were wrong, even as there was no right or wrong on this occasion.
This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not always about meditation. Mindfulness is not sitting on a cushion. Mindfulness is a way of relating to everything. Mindfulness is a way of life.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention, without judgement, in a special way that engenders insight. That is the crux of mindfulness.
If I could sit with my own actions and reactions and witness them with compassion and clarity, I could see what lay beneath the surface. I could see my sadness, vulnerability, and powerlessness.
I could feel my pain, the pain of the woman asking about loneliness, and the pain of many in our population impacted by the virus, by loss of jobs, by sequestering, by it all. This kind of paying attention unlocks our hearts and minds to the full experience without avoiding, denying, or distracting.
When I simply react and type my thoughts as fast as they come to the surface of my mind, I don’t leave room for knowing the whole story. Instead, if I am mindful in my response, I leave room for personal progress and emotional expansion. I expose myself, unguarded, into present awareness so I will know myself, my intentions, and my actions more fully. I hear others’ responses with grace and humility.
Through the practice of mindfulness meditation, and the ability to focus my attention where I choose to place it, I become aware of my core and what can truly disrupt my core. Through meditative practice, this ability to be mindful ripens and is cultivated.
The expanded perspective is the opening for wisdom. This is mindfulness in action.
The rest, the sitting on the cushion, the attention to breath or sensations, the letting go and letting be, is the practice of mindful meditation. It is practice for living a mindful life.
A mindful life then, is being awake to and aware of all that is happening within you and outside of you, including your insights and intuitions, and the use of that information in making informed, intelligent choices.
Practice may not make one perfect, without flaw, however “after a long time of practicing, our work will become natural, skillful, swift, and steady” (Bruce Lee).
Imagine then, a culture in which our mindfulness meditation practice leads us to mindful lives of compassion and wisdom. Such practice gets us nowhere and yet everywhere.
Valerie J. Berg Rice
P.S. Yes, I still post positive items, in the appropriate places.
1Lally, Pl, van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W., and Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40 (6), 998-1009.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018). Meditation is not what you think: Mindfulness and why it is so important. NY, NY: Hachette Book Group.
Salzberg, S. (1999). Voices of insight. Boston, MA: Shambala Publications, Inc.
[SA1]?? can this word be used as a noun? I didn’t think so until I Googled it and found this: