Being Breath

stories from the wilderness of everyday life

Mindfulness, Even When It Hurts: A Guest Post

I am honored today to have Sue Kearney, of Magnolia's West, as a guest contributer!  Sue has a fabulous practice of daily gratitude, which she shares over at her site, Morning Gratitudes (part of Magnolia's West).  She is also a coach and mentor, helping others integrate their creative, spiritual, and practical lives...AND she is a brand and web designer!  (And check out her bio below for even more fascinating facts...)  Talk about a woman-of-all-trades!

Sue graciously offers us insight today into mindfulness, and how every moment - the good ones and the really challenging ones - offer us an opportunity for practice. 

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Ah, I love mindfulness. I love the practice and the opportunities to be in the moment, of the moment. To be present to my meal, to my work, to my breathing. I love it even though I really really suck at it!

I’m a tough case when it comes to being present to the moment. I think all addicts are.

Even before I got loaded for the first time and began my 22-year career of being as powerfully fucked-up as possible round the clock, I found ways to put layers and layers between me and what was going on in the now. Like this: TV while doing my homework. Reading while walking to school. Reading while eating. And that was just double-tasking. It got worse…

Over the years, I became that one, the one who eats with the TV on while reading or playing games on my iPad. I’ve been known to layer ironing or texting or talking on the phone on top. I think it actually got more intense when I got clean and sober in 1991, because I no longer had the drugs to numb the excruciating challenge of experiencing the moment as it is, any moment.

Recently I took on the ridiculous, impossible, are you nuts? challenge of eating mindfully. (Torture!) Of course I had to be driven to desperation to even look into this.

 

The desperation equation.

For me to connect mindfulness with eating came about because I was in a chronic health situation and I was running out of ideas of ways to heal it.


Here I am, this heart-centered passionate businesswoman, with all kinds of wellness practices at my disposal, practices that I also get paid to teach others. And I’m running out of options.

 

Facing the underlying issue

I can now look back and recognize that even as a child I was out of sorts, convinced that any other life, any other reality—body shape, hair color, amount of money—would be preferable to my own. I dove into escaping reality early and often.


In the years since I got sober, I’ve been in an ongoing process of unfoldment, wherein I seek and find ways to be comfortable and productive in my own skin, in my own body, at my own age.

It’s a process of transforming, of learning how to sink into this moment, this reality, and receive it as a gift, instead of something to escape.

I celebrate when I achieve moments of being present, in meditation, when I do t’ai chi. Or in my recently resumed yoga practice. In those isolated chunks of time (ten minutes, 20 minutes, an hour at a time) I embrace the simplicity of being with my breath, with the movement, with compassion for the distractions that float in and the loving capacity to bat them away.

And then I get up from the mat, or the meditation chair, or walk away from the last round of t’ai chi and I’m off and running. Back in the multitasking.

 

Examples (anything sound familiar?):


• I’m writing an article and I hit a block. So I click on email and go do that for a minute. Or check out Facebook (see the little notifications number? must be something important).
• I’m working on my next program I want to offer to my clients and feel stuck. Guess I’ll go read some blogs or watch videos on Funny or Die. Maybe grab the iPad and play a few rounds of Words with Friends.
• Lunchtime? Time to find the iPad and play games or read while the radio is on while I eat.
Not very connected to the moment, huh? Ah, another opportunity to breathe, to let go, to be here.

 

It’s not a quick fix. Instead of thinking of mindfulness as an On/Off switch, please sink into the realization that you’re beginning a lifelong process, in which each moment presents a choice, an opportunity to be present. Like with my current project: meals.


I mentioned my health problems to a friend who had the audacity to suggest that I read The Slow Down Diet by Marc David. Wow. I’ve read the first half, and I’m still stuck there, practicing the basic concepts of taking longer with my meals, breathing while I eat, and eliminating distractions so I can be present.

I try to do this at most meals, and I’m batting around .500. I’ll be honest, it’s really really difficult. And there’s a part of me that’s so annoyed that I have to even consider this. I would like to be fixed by someone other than me, thank you very much. By an acupuncture treatment. By an herbal formula. By a cleanse. By some body work.

Even so, I’m embracing this opportunity to show up for myself and my own healing. It’s a true thing that when this chronic health issue has left my life (go! go now!) I’ll still be a woman who eats. How lovely it will be to have a new relationship with food, one that’s loving and one that I can be present to without so many layers between me and the moment.

I mean, really! I grow food, I shop local and seasonal, I buy exquisite ingredients, I make my own kombucha and sauerkraut, I’m an amazing cook, I love food. What a nice addition to all this if I could actually lean into the way to be present to the eating of that food. It’s exciting to find out who I’ll be and what I’ll be like when I become a slower‚ more mindful, and way healthier eater!

That’s my mindfulness journey, or at least where I am on it today. Please start adding opportunities to be more present (less multi-tasked) in your own life, and see what subtle and not-so-subtle changes and healings you notice in your life and your work.

What do you do to fold mindfulness into your life when you’re off the yoga mat, or done with your meditation? Please share in the comments.

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Sue Kearney is Chief Inspiration Officer at Magnolias West, a coaching, branding and web design practice. She is a dancer, DJ, artist, gardener, cook, and a maker of kombucha, sauerkraut and herbal medicines. Sue is a student of astrology, tarot, and a practitioner and facilitator of women’s spirituality. She also studies mindfulness, mindfully!

Sue coaches women in business who want to reconnect with and fully express their juicy audacity without losing what makes them successful. She offers a Self-Love Coaching program designed to help bring back the magic in all areas of life, as well as a Brand Refresher Review, where women in business can fully and beautifully unmask the brand that reflects the heart and soul of their business.

Contact Sue at Magnolias West. Please check out and comment on her blog, and join her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

 

Thanks again, Sue, for such a wonderful post!  Please leave your comments below and join in the conversation, and be sure to check out more over at Magnolias West!