I am now several weeks in to a course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I’m learning about the program and some of the science that’s been conducted around its efficacy. And I’ve been adding new practices on top of my daily routines, experiencing different ways of being mindful: body scans, formal meditations, movement, mindful activities, and so on. My mind, in usual unquiet fashion, consistently concocts thoughts and narratives about the usefulness of this course and what benefits my participation may bring.
At the same time, since one of the methods presented is “letting be,” I don’t particularly care if it is helpful in making me “more productive” or “chill AF” I am enjoying it and I do not need to extract value from it.
I also happen to be house and kitteh sitting for a friend. Tonight I am sitting alone in the living room with the lights fairly low. A podcast is playing while I absently fit blocks together in a game on my phone. An inky black kitty audibly breaths somewhere around the corner. A milky white kitty rolls around my feet, occasionally chattering for more whenever I reach a hand down to pet her. Over the people speaking, I can hear the steady sound of rain falling outside, the periodic gutter wave created by passing vehicles, and the creak of the chair whenever I move.
A bang outside the front door draws my attention, and I am startled away from my phone, immediately pausing the audio. My heart starts beating, my breath speeds up, and my eyes seek out any discernible movements through the small windows of the front door. The two cats stand alert and move toward it, cautious and alert as well. I slow and quiet my breathing so as not to miss any further sound. I feel tension tightening the muscles in my arms and back as I sit upright and hold myself motionless.
Small sounds hit my ears and my mind races to decipher them. What is rain or passing car, and what is closer to the house? Human voices? Someone on the porch, trying to find cover from the rain? Someone about to knock? Maybe someone just walked by. Perhaps there is another animal outside seeking shelter, not a human. Maybe a neighbor slammed a door, or dropped something. Many scenarios rush through my mind, as real as the nothing I see, hear, or feel.
I realize part of the sound I hear is ever waking snores of the inky black cat. The rain. The cars. I lean back, pausing a moment longer before I look away from the door, and back to my phone. As quickly as it came, the moment is gone again. My mind starts to explore what happened in my body. I begin to think about my class.
Homework for MBSR this week is to journal about an unpleasant event each day. I’ve already written one, but I think I realize some reasoning behind the homework. There is nothing particularly bad about unpleasant situations. I spent perhaps a solid minute fully immersed in a fearful – and yet entirely present – state of being. I could pick apart different sensations in my body, in the space around me. And I was not ruminating on the past, or planning for the distant future. I was paused in the moment and I was very aware. Being startled for a minute turned out to be a little odd piece of mindfulness.