Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mindfulness - My 2008 Intention

One of the basic concepts of Buddhism is Mindfulness. It's one of those concepts that seems so simple but is, for me at least, very difficult. It relates to living in the moment and being aware of and appreciating what is happening at any given time. Obviously, I've oversimplified the idea, which is very complex and is the subject of many books, but this blog isn't the place for a tedious (for you, not me) explanation or discussion of spiritual principles.

For now, let's just say that I've been thinking for quite awhile about things I can do to improve the quality of life around Pug Manor and bring a little peace and tranquility into the chaos that seems to characterize my own life. Right now, for instance, I'm awash in fears about my job (and not having one), about money, and about how I'm going to spend the next however many years I've got. I've been doing what my father would have called "soul searching." And one of the issues that I've identified is that I'm constantly chasing things that I think will make my life better, and I seldom catch anything of lasting value.

Every year I make a huge list of New Year's Resolutions. The word "resolution" implies use of resolve, which in turn implies commitment. But every year, those resolutions, once written down, are ignored until about December 28 when I suddenly realize I haven't done squat toward them. So this year, a new idea (a resolution, if you will): NO NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS.

Instead, Mindfulness. Here's where I'm going with this whole thing:

Mindfulness about my choices and how they impact others. Everything we do has an effect on others, whether intentionally or accidentally. For instance, an unkind word can hurt someone's feelings unnecessarily. An accumulation of negative thinking can make me more negative. In a more global way, our choices can impact the sustainabilty of our planet. For me, I can work on controlling things like my temper, what I say or write, my driving speed, my consumption of our Earth's natural resources, where the products I buy come from.

Mindfulness about food and eating. I tend to eat when I'm bored or anxious, and when I do that, I seldom think about whether I'm making the right choice. (It actually feels a lot like the way I used to drink and smoke--lighting up cigarette after cigarette to keep my hands busy and my mind still.) It's a fact that when I'm speeding through a drive-thru, I'm not thinking about calories or whether I'm eating something with unhealthy additives or how many miles I'm going to have to walk to burn up that Big Mac. In 2008, I'd like to eat when hungry, stop when I've had enough, and be aware of what I'm eating and really enjoy it. It's also important to realize how that food got on my plate and at what cost. I might eat less if I actually listened to my body about what I was putting in it. (And who could be more concentrated on her eating than Lightning?)

Mindfulness about money. I have earned all my own spending money since the age of 13 and sometimes I get that "well, it's my money and I'll damn well do what I want to" attitude. I tend to be wasteful and I certainly don't save enough. I need to work on knowing, really knowing, where I'm spending money and finding ways to save more. I can use up some of what I have, get rid of what I don't need, and appreciate what remains.

Mindfulness about other people. While I'm spending all that money on whatever-the-hell-I-please, and eating fast food and such, there's a lot of poverty and hunger in the world. I can't solve it all, but I can be more aware of opportunities to assist others. I throw things away every day that someone at the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children could use. I can volunteer to help someone learn to read. I would like to be the person I think I am -- generous and caring--instead of the person I fear I am--lazy and wasteful and too "busy" to help others. And I can use some of that yarn I've been stockpiling for people who need warmth.

Finally, Mindfulness about the "now." I want to take the opportunity to enjoy my surroundings and what I'm doing. I often "quiet" my mind with mindless reading, TV, or internet blather rather than allow it to be aware of what's going on around me. I often knit while I read blogs while I listen to podcasts. No wonder I feel so ADD most of the time--my mind is full of stimulation with little peace. This year, I want to enjoy the peacefulness of my knitting, thinking about the stitches and the pattern and the yarn, how those elements transform string to a beautiful or useful object, and the person who will use it.

1 comment:

ChelleC said...

Wow, Diana, you and I are literally on the same page with our words for the year, and you perfectly described the way I feel about areas of my life where I need increased awareness/mindfulness. Maybe we can encourage one another throughout the year.