Monday, January 16, 2012

Mindfulness Challenge

After coming down from the extreme high of two weeks of roadtrip, I’m finding reality is a real drag… I decided this year I wouldn’t make any New Year’s resolutions since I think it’s a little of a joke to change your life because of an arbitrary date, but as it turns out, I have one after all: Be better. Be a better wife, friend, daughter, employee, listener, musician, writer, humanitarian, appreciator, artist, teacher, activist, human, just be better at all of it.

So I’ve been trying to feed myself as much as possible, mentally and spiritually. I started reading a book called How to Train a Wild Elephant by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D. It’s kind of a workbook of exercises in mindfulness, there are 53 of these tasks in total, and I’ve decided to do one a week throughout the course of this year.

The first of these exercises has been difficult, funny and awkward to complete. During the first week of my year of mindfulness, I’ve endeavored to use my non-dominant hand for tasks I normally relegate to my right hand. This means brushing my teeth, opening doors, turning pages, applying mascara, and a host of other mundane tasks are being handled by my left hand. I’ve been doing most of them for 30 years with the right hand, and it’s been ridiculously hard to do certain things. The concept is that if you bring more attention into your daily life that you will be more present, more aware, and more mindful. I don’t think I need to describe for you how exceedingly difficult it is to visit a public restroom with this club of a left hand for my only tool. Dexterity and ease are things I take for granted – for certain.
Just remembering to use my left hand is part of the challenge. I’ve been wearing a giant ring on my right hand so I have a visual reminder of my task, but there are so many things we do that are truly automatic, without looking or thinking about the hand that performs the task.
I still have a few more days to wield my useless arm as my primary tool for handling the universe, but I already have a few learnings to share. For instance, I have noticed a few times in this week when I have consciously performed tasks with my right hand in spite of my resolution to ignore it. Running late, my right hand can’t be beat for expediency. I don’t think of this as a slip, however, because the simple fact that I’m paying attention to which hand I’m using is proof of mindfulness. I know that I’m using the right hand and why – and this is the most important lesson. Teaching a class while mousing on my laptop with my left hand is frankly embarrassing, and I hope a week of it will improve my skills. Also, I spend a lot of my time on autopilot. Driving a car, eating, washing dishes, and surfing the internet are all tasks that I barely participate in, even though I’m in charge and just being aware of this ignorance is empowering. I invite you to join me in taking on a new task each week…
This is just week 1. Hopefully I survive this year with all my digits.

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