1/07/2020

mindfulness meditation: it's so good when it doesn't work!

as the subtitle of my book states, i live like a gorilla in the modern human society. and i have a monkey mind. seems quite logic but, as odd as it may sound, having a monkey mind is a typical trait of the human species. it means that my mind wanders from a thought to another as a monkey jumps from a branch to another. this mental pattern, although quite common in adult humans, is detrimental on the long run: it leads to chronical lack of attention, excessive mental fatigue and stress. nowadays we already have so many reasons to be stressed and surely we don't need the useless wandering of our mind to make things worse.
through the years i've tried many different approaches to stop or at least to slow down my monkey mind. one thing that seems to work great for me is to write down on random pieces of paper anything that comes to my mind that could be considered worth remembering or that may be useful later. for example, if i have an idea for a post for this blog, wherever i am and whatever i am doing i look for a piece of paper and a pen and take a quick note of it. it really helps a lot: the goal isn't remembering the idea itself but emptying my mind from a thought that otherwise would remain in the background till the moment when i could actually find the time to sit in front of my pc and write it down (and sometimes this could mean days of even weeks). having too many background thoughts in your mind is like an ongoing background noise in the ears: it may go unnoticed for days but it's always there driving your focus away from where it should be, in the perennial here and now.
so lately, trying to slow down my mind a little more, i decided to try some meditation techniques. i really don't like incense-scented extravaganzas or mystical things like chants or mantras, so i looked for something more scientific-oriented. mindfulness meditation seemed what i was looking for. i adopted the book "Mindfulness" by Mark Williams and Danny Penman as my guide to this new experience. this post isn't a book review so i won't go in details about it. the basic principle of mindfulness meditation is quite simple: just try to live in the present with full awareness of your body, your mind and your senses. well, that's not so easy. there are many exercises that help reveal how human minds work and recognize some common patterns that lead us to loose our focus on the present and to get stuck in an ongoing flow of thoughts leading nowhere.
the fact is... i really suck at it. now, after a few months of daily practice, i can say that i'm just starting to see some results. but mindfulness meditations have an interesting side effect on me: while i am doing my best to stay focused on my breath or my body sensations, my mind goes like crazy from a thought to another, once again like a monkey on amphetamine would jump from branch to branch. but even if the meditation practice ends in a total failure, i get some results out of it: it's in those moments that i get the best ideas for almost every aspect of my life, be it planning workouts, blog posts or creative ways to solve everyday problems or to make life easier.
still, besides my personal experience and frequent failures during the daily practice, i really appreciate the concept of mindfulness meditation: living in the here&now and enjoying every moment of it. just consider the behavior of your cat or your dog: do you think he lives constantly remembering the past, planning the future or daydreaming? absolutely not. he's constantly focused on his present and enjoys it. why shouldn't we do the same?