By Kate Kerry Spencer
When you first begin to practice mindful sitting, you may feel awkward, anxious, annoyed, restless or sleepy. In fact, you may feel all of these states almost simultaneously. That’s pretty natural given that we spend most of our time during the day packing more into it. There’s work to be done, kids to feed, butts to lift, trains to catch, reports to write, meetings to endure and momentum to maintain. And that’s all before lunch.
It’s true: A body in motion really does tend to stay in motion. For many of us, all that motion produces a satisfying adrenaline rush that comes from being a multitasking wizard. A modern version of Rene Descartes “I think, therefore I am” is “I do, therefore I matter.”
Many of us are defined by the work that we do—at our jobs, in our personal lives, and even how well we meticulously or haphazardly edge our patch of lawn, if we have one.
But what if you are unemployed—either voluntarily retired or laid off as part of a corporate reorg—or sidelined by an injury, illness or disability that makes work impossible for you? What if the thing that has defined you—what you do—is no longer part of your life? What if it never was?
Each of us, in our own way, will face that question in our lives. And so will everyone that we love. Cultivating a new identifying affirmation, “I am home” or “I am home to myself” can, over time, go a long way in etching a new landscape in your heart, mind and body.
If you have relied on your work to define you however, expect some internal resistance. Sitting quietly doing nothing may feel like a waste of time, which may feel like a waste of energy, which may feel like a loss of purpose and identity. The question is, who are we when we are alone with ourselves?
Discovering that can be scary at first, but over time, as you practice quietly sitting with yourself, you will discover, bit by bit, sit by sit, the inner garden of you. Now, instead of drawing on the external “what you do” to define you, there’s an opportunity to draw on the internal “who you are” to recognize, embrace and grow all that you are in this moment and all that you are open to becoming in the future.
Today, set aside 12 minutes to simply sit quietly. Put your hand on your heart, close your eyes and feel your breath moving through you. With every inhalation feel the strength of coming home to yourself, and with every exhalation, feel the comfort of being present for that one and only wonder-filled being that only you can be: You.
Kate Kerry Spencer is a Pacific Northwest writer, editor, and publisher. Learn more about her upcoming memoir, Smoke: A Story of Love, Lies and Cigarettes.
Smoke is the story of fatal consolations--tobacco, denial and deceit--and the second chances that can come to us in the most unlikely places. For this mother and daughter it was a rehab center where the two women wrestled with cigarettes, scrambled brains and each other--and in the process, found the long way back to love.