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Mindful : August 2017
When I’m meditating, I’m disturbed by other people’s twitching and moving. Should I talk to them about it? Other people bug me too. With their questions and insecurities about medita- tion. Nag, nag, nag. “Just sit and watch your breath already!” I think to myself. Then I see how unkind and small-minded I’m being. We all have questions, duh! I realize, “Oh! Grumpiness is back. Hello Grumpy. Will the other six dwarfs be visiting soon too? How about Happy? Yes! Sleepy? Zzzzz. Dopey? Yup.” I do my best to welcome these frequent visitors. They’re simply the arising of dif- ferent aspects of mental life that parade past on their way to work in the salt mines, or wherever the Seven Dwarfs worked. Maybe you just discov- ered another of the dwarfs: Twitchy. He’s got a few tics, can’t sit still, strug- gles to remain calm and motionless, but in the end his bright eyes and warm intention show through, and you can see that he’s just a person like all the rest of us, perhaps cursed with a slightly tighter-wound body than most, but still I try to keep tabs on the number of times I lose track and come back during a session. Is that valuable? When I hear a question like this, an image immediately pops to mind: an accountant with a laptop open on the floor beside his or her cushion ready to enter his departures in a spreadsheet. Or perhaps an older edition, with him wearing one of those green eyeshades that the bean counters used to use, hunched over his adding machine calculating his mind-wandering events. Still, I appreciate the idea behind your ques- tion. While the overall cumulative totals of such an endeavor may not be particularly helpful in the practice, what can be tremendously helpful is to take time to take note of when the mind has wandered before bringing it back to the present moment. In other words, saying to oneself “my attention has wandered, bringing it back.” Or noting “distraction,” “planning,” “fantasizing,” or whatever mental activity you happen to notice. So not just dragging your attention back like a recalcitrant puppy without reflection, but training that puppy through a moment of feedback (in puppy-training language: “down!” or “leave it!”) before redirecting back to the moment. These moments of noting or registering the experience of mind-wandering help train the brain over time to more frequently attend to the moment. simply desiring happiness and freedom from suffer- ing. The challenge in these situations is to step out of the problem-solving mode that we most often find ourselves in and to stand outside the “problem” to observe what is happening. Can we possibly notice that twitching is actually another opportunity for our own practice? Can we cultivate a more allowing, accepting, even compas- sionate stance toward the arising of twitching and moving in another person? Can we treat their inad- vertent and unfortunate behavior as simply another random phenomenon, no more real or substantial than a passing thought about what’s for lunch or a memory of your Aunt Ger- trude’s apple pie? When ever y arising is seen as an opportunity for practice, then we are infinitely engaged in the practice of being us. We let go of needing to change things that have no real significance or importance, and by doing so, we actually strengthen our ability to face the bigger challenges of life because we’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. And then, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s offtoworkwego!”● 42 mindful August 2017 the mindful faq