Years ago, an Ayurvedic doctor told me to eat my meals as if I was a queen. He wanted me to slow down and savor my food. To act as if I was pampered.
I was in the throes of single motherhood and at the time, it seemed like an absurd idea. But still, I liked the image so from time to time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to eat a meal like a queen.
Today, I decided, I’d do it–I would dine like Her Majesty.
My idea of pampering is not very extravagant. The only thing I wanted was to watch a Stephen Colbert video after breakfast, taking a moment for something enjoyable before starting my day.
Not much but still, I was the queen.
Make it happen.
I got a cup of coffee and hit play. The video began.
Immediately (and I mean within nanoseconds) I remembered that I needed to refill my birdfeeders.
Then I remembered that I needed to rent a car for an upcoming trip to Los Angeles.
Then I wanted to look up what the word “anodyne” meant and somehow this reminded me that it’s Amazon Prime day and I wanted to order a gift for my daughter.
And by then, I had to replay the video because I hadn’t heard a word.
I couldn’t enjoy even 3 minutes of my relaxing, self-care routine before I was itchy to do something else.
Where did my royal respite go? Why couldn’t I relax and enjoy a self-indulgent moment?
And what do I do with such a twitchy mind?
I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.
~ Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love
Mindfulness doesn’t mean you’re calm
Many people think that the sign of mindfulness is that you are calm and focused. They believe that having an agitated mind means that you must be doing something wrong.
This is a misunderstanding.
Being mindful means being aware of whatever is happening.
Good. Bad. Pretty. Ugly.
You watch your mind’s antics with compassion and non-judgement.
If your mind is agitated, be present with the agitation.
The first step to deal with a twitchy mind is to watch it. In my case, I watched how quickly I shifted between various topics and desires.
Mindfulness isn’t always comfortable
I have to admit–I wasn’t pleased with my inability to savor my breakfast and enjoy my treat.
I have some, ahem, attachment to the idea that I am a relatively laid back person.
So while my mind was agitated, I was also agitated that I was agitated.
This is NOT comfortable.
When you’re aware of what your mind does, it’s not always welcome insight. It’s like catching yourself in the mirror and discovering a double-chin that you didn’t realize you had.
Not an easy reality.
During the times you wince at your own humanness, it’s good to remember how human everyone is. You wouldn’t be critical of a friend who was having a bad morning so don’t be critical of yourself.
Step two is to view yourself with kindness.
Focus on the breath
When your mind is bouncing around from one topic to another, it’s a good time to practice your easiest meditation.
For most people, focusing on the breath is a good place to start.
Bring your awareness to your in-breath and your out-breath. Often when you give your twitchy mind something to do, it will calm down.
But for some people, focusing on the breath is not calming. In that case, use the meditation that works for you. Meditate on sounds, your feet, your hands–whatever is easy and familiar.
Step three is to give your crazy mind a job.
Rely on your sangha/church/community
In Buddhism, your spiritual community is called your sangha. These are the people who are committed to the same practices and ideals that you are. It’s the same idea as a church group, support group, or any group of people committed to helping each other grow.
Sanghas are especially helpful when you’re having a challenge. These friends understand you. They’ve been through the same struggles. Because they have this experience, they often give great advice.
Even if you don’t have a formal spiritual community, find support. Reach out to people who share your commitment to happiness and well-being.
Later in the day, a friend called. We talked about being present with whatever is happening–good or bad. We both had situations that we wanted to be different. This made us very agitated and the agitation made us uncomfortable.
As we talked, we began to laugh about it. By the end of the call, we both felt better.
No one wants to admit they’re wound up.
But by sharing our challenges, at least we didn’t feel alone.