Expand Your Timeline!
Lately more and more, people ask why they should practice longer than the 5 min meditation app they found that calms them down briefly.
Of course that’s great in the short term, but aside from 40 years of evidenced based research on the Gold Standard of mindfulness training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which invites us to longer meditations, and shows that these longer meditations have can great impact on our physical and mental health.
There are other reasons as well. Paying attention on purpose, non judgmentally, to the present moment for 35-45 minutes, has its own value.
By developing a longer concentration span, we might notice things that other wise pass us by and are missed. Partly because we move on so quickly to the next thing….
I was reminded of this by a recent student in my Mindful Self-Compassion class. One thing that develops for people as they practice for longer periods of time, is insight into the patterns of their lives and finding new options.
In class 4 of the eight week program a woman who came to the class- tired from years of being pushed past her physical and mental limits by her “Inner Critic”, a need to prove her worth and people pleasing, shared that she had tried something new. Like many people, she was drawn to this particular class because she was aware that being hard on herself to get things done, was exhausting and not terribly effective. But she was still doing it , so had hope of learning new skills.
This program explores what self-care really looks like, in other words, self–compassion is not to be confused with self indulgence, but rather setting limits for our selves and others out of love, self respect and care. So with this in mind, at the end of what had been a long day and a desire to go home to her son and husband, just as she was getting ready to shut her computer down, she received two very demanding complicated emails. She decided to respond briefly; saying she’d get back to them the next day. Her usual behavior would be to respond immediately from this place of tired irritability, leaving her even more fatigued and resentful to boot. I asked how it felt to try this new behavior. She shared, “When I got home I felt awful, really guilty, so guilty it kept me up at night.” “Even though I was really glad to have more time to be with my family.”
I asked her how she felt the next day, “Oh my God, I hadn’t thought about that, but I actually felt great! I felt empowered! And both people actually apologized and the communications went so much better!” It was an interesting moment to reflect upon. Because of the negativity bias of out brain (evolutionarily hard wired into us). https://www.rickhanson.net/take-in-the-good/ she had remembered the pain of setting boundaries in a new self caring way, but by expanding the time line she realized that by not sustaining her attention, she missed the longer term effects of trying a new behavior! This applies to so many things. Try it when you’re eating a favorite food, you might feel slightly guilty about, or may have sworn off of, but you couldn’t resist…you go ahead and eat it, and at first it tastes delicious…. However if you eat past the point of fullness, you might not notice how badly you feel after overeating, or eating something that isn’t good for you. Often with Mindful Eating practices, we emphasize paying attention before you eat- to how hungry you actually are, and we’re invited to pay attention while we are eating, but I have found the most profound changes in my own behavior changed the most as I tuned into how I felt after overeating, or eating something I really deep down didn’t feel was in my best interest in terms of long term well being. Allowing myself to feel this over and over, I noticed my portions becoming smaller naturally while enjoying my food more. I found myself making different choices, and experiencing a deeper satisfaction than I had from the temporary satisfaction I might have gotten from eating the unhealthy food.
So I invite you as you practice and move through your life, to expand your time line…see what happens; give it more time! How and where to do this? Our 8 week MBSR and MSC classes are well underway, (classes to come in the fall) But don’t wait! Please look into attending our 15th annual summer Mindfulness and Yoga Retreat where you can really have time to experiment with this practice in a supportive environment. Learn more and register here: https://www.mindful-way.com/events/meditation-yoga-weekend-retreat-southern-california/