Hello everyone, So happy to share the third post in Peter Tolly’s three-part guest blog series on Mindful Meditation!! Thank You, Peter, for sharing your wisdom!! 🙂 — Lisa
As I was making an omelet for breakfast this morning, I was reflecting on the merits of Teflon™. If a non-stick pan could talk, I think it might teach a good lesson on mindfulness. No matter what I throw into my pan—eggs, mushrooms, cheese—everything just slides off, and the pan is ready for more action.
To reiterate what I shared in my last post using a new metaphor, mindful meditation helps us cultivate our inner non-stick pan. By choosing to focus on our breath in the present moment instead of letting our thoughts pull us away, we build the skill of non-reactivity. Life is bound to throw a messy situation into our pan, and when it does, not getting gummed up and lost in our normal reactions is the first step to taking more mindful action. With a Teflon™ mind, we can stop, step back, see the bigger picture and make a clear-headed decision.
As my unconscious reactions started to lose their stickiness in my life through mindful meditation, I began to realize that this practice can—if I wanted it to—be applied to a lot more in life than simply reducing rumination and worry. In this third and final post in this series, I’d like to share how mindful meditation has, for me, become a practice that applies to my whole life. Here are four big takeaways from my meditation practice.
Four lessons from the meditation cushion, meant for real life:
- Most of my behavior is made up of unconscious habits.
Needless rumination and worry were the habits I set out to address with my mindful meditation practice, but I quickly found that I have plenty of other automatic behaviors that aren’t necessary helpful. These range anywhere from being overly critical of myself to the way I communicate with friends and family. Mindful meditation has helped me become aware of these tendencies and begin choosing compassion for myself and others in many aspects of my life.
- It’s easy to act on assumptions, not actual data.
In my normal state of autopilot, I feel convinced that I know everything there is to know about my world. Simply experiencing sensations in the present moment often reminds me that my autopilot reality is actually a sort of fantasy that has more to do with my emotional states, cravings and expectations than with what is actually happening here and now. When it comes to my decision-making, mindful meditation has helped me listen more and assume less.
- Real change requires consistent practice.
Formation of unconscious habits, making assumptions about reality—these seem to be things that my mind does naturally, and that I’ve been doing since I was born. In other words, choosing to operate based on present moment awareness instead of on autopilot is no small task. If I’m serious about it, this change will require no small commitment. That means practicing mindful meditation regularly and for the long run.
- Actually, true mindful meditation never stops.
I usually stop thinking about swimming after I get out of the pool, but to think that I can just switch autopilot back on after a mindful meditation session feels like wishful thinking to me. My mindlessness affects not only my own happiness but also my environment and the people I interact with, so the work of mindfulness is a 24/7 endeavor.
As far as my personal mental health goes, mindful meditation has had a very direct and practical application in reducing rumination and worry, but mindfulness can also become a practice that applies to more of living.
Whatever your relationship to mindful meditation is, I hope you have found these three posts clarifying and inspiring in some way—and that the next time you reach for your nonstick pan, you’ll remember your Teflon™ mind.
Thanks again to Lisa for the opportunity to share from my experience. If there’s one thing to stay mindful of, it’s her blog—full of great content for life, work and inspiration!
Peter Tolly is a creative writer based in Northeast Wisconsin. He writes as a means of personal expression as well as to help others connect with and inspire their audience. He also practices mindful meditation, at the heart of which is his involvement with Zen River Sangha, a community that meets in Appleton (www.zenriver.org). For more from Peter, visit www.petertolly.com.