Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword these days. When I first started meditating last year, I struggled with the idea of mindfulness of the breath. Deep breathing can be useful when I’m feeling tense or anxious, but as an anchor for mindfulness, I just felt bored. I don’t expect mindfulness to be entertaining, but if I feel bored then that starts to stir up negative thoughts, which isn’t very productive. Similarly, I find it can be useful to do a body scan to check in with what’s happening, but it just doesn’t do it for me as an extended mindfulness focal point.
Eventually, I realized that nature was my perfect mindfulness target. First I noticed that I could sit and gaze at my little guinea pigs going about their silly simple lives and the rest of my mind would go on mute. Then I noticed I could get the same effect if I was out for a walk and listened to the birds singing or watched the wind rustle the leaves of a tree.
I think this is easier as a mindfulness anchor for me than breathing because the locus of control is shifted. Breathing is under my control, so trying to focus on it bores me. Stimuli from nature are not under my control, and so I tend to watch and listen with an attitude of wonderment. This is nothing earth-shattering, but I like to try to understand why certain things work for me and certain things don’t.
If I think about what I want mindfulness to accomplish, I want it to allow me to be grounded in the present and temporarily turn off the mental background noise. Being mindful of the little things in nature that I experience outside of my body seems to get me there much more effectively than trying to be mindful of what’s going on inside my body. So I’m going to stick with what works rather than trying to be “successful” with the whole breath thing.
Do you practice mindfulness? What works for you?
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