Contentment and Discontentment – At the same time…
Within hours this past Saturday, I felt both strong and weak. I felt good about my body and its shape and I had thoughts wishing certain parts were fitter and more slender. It was interesting “sensing” all of these feelings and thoughts as they flowed through my awareness, while trying to not give them strength. It really got me thinking about some of the concepts of Mindfulness that we discuss in classes I teach and how they play out constantly in our minds and bodies, whether we are aware of them or not. In just this ½ day I recognized the following concepts playing out:
Each moment is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. During this time, there were very pleasant moments of joy, gratitude, and contentment and there were unpleasant moments of discontentment with self and pain. But, mostly there were moments that were ok, or neutral, life passing by. I’ve had the opportunity in the past couple weeks filled with headaches to recognize it’s possible to experience pain, but to still have very pleasant moments. To recognize the pain but not let it take over the overarching joy of nature, music, friends, and community is an interesting experience.
That leads to the ability to treat ourselves with kindness. To be with our bodies when they aren’t at their strongest moments in a gentle way, always coming back to the breath and each moment. There is not one person in this world that is always at their very best. At some point in life, we all have a bad night’s sleep, or get sick, or hurt a body part, or just wake up with a weird headache or pain in our neck or back. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us human. Give yourself a break. Listen to your body, investigate the feeling. Hmm, is that a constant pain? Does it come and go? Is it sharp or dull? Give it some attention so you can make a good decision about resting it or pushing through. Mentally put a hand on that spot as if you were comforting a friend that was in pain. Wouldn’t it be easier to treat our body like a friend, instead of an enemy?
Then there’s that concept that our thoughts are just thoughts – not necessarily truths. Those thoughts that go through my mind wishing my thighs were thinner, beating myself up about the extra pound in my stomach, etc. are just that – random words. Just thinking them doesn’t make it true that my thighs are fat and I better obsess about it. It simply means for a brief moment we’ve wished something or bought into some ad or societal communication that we’ve internalized. It’s probably best to recognize these thoughts early, to note that they may not be productive and maybe I’ve been watching too much tv. The sooner we can recognize this, the more pleasant moments we can have! Unpleasant moments often come from letting ourselves believe we should be something different than what we are right now, in this moment. For example, I could easily have worked myself into great discontentment if I’d concentrated on everything else I should be doing this past Saturday afternoon, like weeding my gardens. There’s a time that might have been my inclination, even on days we’d agreed to do something else. Instead I allowed myself to just be, to sit in a small meadow surrounded by beautiful trees and mountains, taking in lovely music with the person I love, feeling the warmth of the sun and the comfort of the clouds, and watching young children dance.
I’ve just introduced a few concepts here and have not gone into great detail, but perhaps you also recognize how some of these play out constantly in your mind. I invite you to alleviate just a little of the suffering in your life by recognizing the themes that play out in your head, constantly contradicting each other. Don’t judge them; don’t think about the whys or the stories behind them; just make note and move back to the present moment; to the breath, the body, and the feeling of how you and your body are interacting with each moment.