A reminder about mindfulness

This morning The Brian Lehrer Show had a segment on mindfulness. How timely.

The interviewee, Gabriel Cohen, talked about a Buddhist belief that when something bad happens (unemployment, death, divorce), it is like an arrow has hit us.

The Buddhists believe that we often hit ourselves with a second arrow, like judgment or blame, that makes the hurt worse.

An alternative to this second arrow is mindfulness. It's a meditative approach that allows you to experience exactly what's happening, to be with it, without attaching anything extra.

Cohen gave a great example about online dating. If he emails a woman and doesn't hear back the next day, he has a couple choices. See it for what it is—she didn't write back—or attach other beliefs to it—she doesn't like me, I'm not worth dating. She could write back in two days because she was out of town, and he will have gone down this road for no reason.

I don't know about you but this really resonated with me. How many times do I make assumptions without warrant about what's happening and how that reflects on my self-worth or value to others? I get upset, feel dejected, and no one has uttered a word to cause this.

Putting mindfulness into practice can happen in a lot of ways: yoga, meditation, chanting, a long walk. It requires patience and persistence.

It takes time for your mind to recognize those thoughts of what-you-think-is-happening and choose whether you take them on or not. Noticing them and letting them float on by, allows you to deal with just what is really happening, the first arrow, and not that second arrow of your own creation.

I put it into practice this morning while jogging. I focused on my feet hitting the ground, my breath and the sound of the wind.

When a thought came up about a decision I'm making at work, I noticed it and saw it for what it is—one decision. I know what I want and I will express it without worrying about what it means that I feel this way, how others will perceive me, what larger issue may be at play. All of that is background noise.

When the result of my decision happens I will see it simply too. It may take another jog, but that's part of the mindfulness. Giving myself space to see things clearly and react from that place.

Mindfulness is a useful concept in a world where things happen quickly. It's a great reminder that we always have a choice.