Blogging As A Mindfulness Practice: Why I Left You A Comment

Awareness

Everything you do can be used to help you wake up to the present moment. Why not make blogging into a mindfulness exercise?

 

This blogging world is pretty new to me. It’s so new that I don’t even know if it’s obvious that it’s new to me or not. I’m still learning everything from how to keep track of posts I like to finding a blog a second time.

When I first started making posts and actually putting effort in, I got a handful of followers. Some of them, who are probably reading this, were great people who actually read the post, actually liked it, maybe commented, and in either case, kept coming back for more.

Other new followers had blogs which I instantly checked out; I found something rather peculiar. A tiny handful of them had somewhat interesting posts, sure, but they also had loads, and I mean loads, of comments which were unanimously: “thank you for following my blog!”

Oh, that’s what this is, I thought. People aren’t following me because I’m an as-of-yet-undiscovered-genius; they are following me so that I follow them. Then it hit me, aha! I have had this feeling before!

I was sitting on the dirt next to a tree on the sidewalk in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. It was night time, so the only lighting was a juicy mix of streetlights and store lights, maybe some Christmas decorative lights as well, even though it was the later part of sweet early June.

I was selling necklaces that I had made; living out of a van with my guitar-playing gypsy boyfriend and a new puppy. A girl came up to me that evening and spent a lot of time asking me about each necklace; where I was when I made it, where I got the beads, how they would affect someone’s energy, and so on. She just wanted to know it all, and I was incredibly touched that a stranger was so kind and curious; and yet there was something strange. She was asking question after question, but wasn’t really engaging with the answers. I was just happy to be talking to someone.

After about a half hour of this flowery girl talk, she told me that she had come to tell me that there was one true savior and that he wanted me to be saved. My heart broke. It broke in half and fell to the bricks, oozing down into the crevices with leftover cigarette ash and dog pee. It made me hate her and anyone like her. I would not have minded had she walked up to me with a bible, stating her point, even if she wanted to yell at me or make fun of me. But she took the trouble to engage me in conversation, to find what mattered to me, and only then tell me her true purpose for starting the conversation.

That was the feeling I got when I looked at a person that had just started following me and realized that they had made a day of following any blog that had made a new post. Except the girl at least had looked me in the eye.

Now, it’s really not such a big deal. I may even be imagining that there is anything wrong with that approach to blogging; maybe it is just a common practice and I am in the dark.

My concern that since habits start to form around the ways we relate, the more time we spend on social network sites, the more that these patterns become part of the fabric of our being. We start getting careless and mindless in one arena, and slowly that mentality spreads like a stain on the rest of our lives. I believe that we can use the act of blogging, and of doing anything on the computer, to become more aware of the present moment.

My suggestion is that we all spend a teensy bit more time being aware of the things we do and the way we relate to people on our social media network. The quality of the things we write; the effort that goes into them and how that effort ends up impacting us when we leave the screen. There are so many things we can pay attention to in order to enhance the other parts of our lives. For instance, the more honest and clear I can be with a comment, the more it helps me to express certain feelings in my novel. Here is a list of a few things that you can pay attention to as you blog:

  • Your posture as you read, write, and work.
  • How you eat your food, if you eat by the computer. How you chew, swallow, and digest.
  • How it feels when your eyes move from the screen to the surrounding areas of your home.
  • How¬† it feels in your body when you stop to pet your dog or cat or pay attention to other people in the room.
  • How your stomach feels right in this moment.
  • How your feet feel on the surface or air that they are touching.
  • How it feels in your belly or chest when you think about a sentence that you want to type; how it feels to type it.
  • How it feels in your body when you listen to the noises happening around you.
  • What the air smells like.
  • How high above you the ceiling is; or the sky.
  • The feeling of your head on your shoulders.
  • How tense your shoulders are.
  • How tense your upper arms are.
  • How tense your forearms are.
  • How tense your hands are.
  • How tense your pointer finger is.
  • And so on.

There are literally endless aspects of this moment that you can pay attention to. So why not try it? Why not try out how it feels to follow other blogs mindlessly, and how it feels to read a random post, read what it says, and comment on how it affected you even if it is a post you never would have read otherwise?

Since trying to leave more meaningful comments and make more meaningful relationships with my blogging world, I have felt better in many writing-related ways. I have gotten over a huge blockage I had in regards to working on my book, and I feel more able to write my silly articles without bitterness for my job because I can take little breaks and leave a meaningful comment or two. It is my little exercise of verbalizing how I feel from a present state of mind.

The internet is a fabulous tool, a wonderful way of getting your voice into living rooms, coffee shops, parks, and minds all over the world. Pay attention to how you relate to it; and maybe you will learn more about how you relate with the rest of your daily scenery and relationships.

So let’s try to add a dose of awareness to the cocktail of all the things we are doing. Let’s be aware of our intention, our attention, and our inattention.

Sometimes it is tempting for me to read a post and love it, and simply hit “like.” But when I do that, the person doesn’t get to know how their words really affected me, sitting here in my hot little city with my feet on a dog and a glass of iced wine at my side. So I try to be honest and clear. It helps me in the rest of my life; and I think that those that don’t take advantage of such opportunities are missing out. That is why I left you a comment.

3 Ways to Put Tunnel Vision in its Place

When I first started working this morning, I was in quite a bad mood. My coffee seemed broken, no food seemed appealing, and the sun was annoyingly in my face. Since I am a content writer (content with an emphasis on the first syllable. Not like “oh, I’m feeling so content at the moment.” More like “I need some content written about floral pattern sheets.” ), I am relying on someone to send me projects and there is no telling how many there will be on any given day. Today I had one that would earn me a mere 40 dollars, and I had to do it in four hours in order to feel like I was making enough an hour to justify keeping the job. Even if I finished it with the mental idea that I had earned 10 dollars an hour, there was no way to make more than that today. So, I was pissed.

Then I figured, why not enjoy life for once. I mean, it’s my thing now.

The sun is ridiculously perfect today, the leaves are just starting to get all fiery and my dog found a perfect spot of shade on the porch to lay on. I sit with my laptop, feeling the breeze, listening to Hank Williams and yodeling along in the peace and quiet. I finished the articles, and I have no idea how long it took. I still have more work to do on them, but for the moment I am writing this entry. I think that many people have a similar problem, which is that they allow work to create a tunnel vision. After a few years of that mentality, you might begin to forget what is outside of it.

It doesn’t matter what your job is. There is an American thing in which we all want to make money, and we are supposed to all become rich and famous somehow. We are supposed to make some amount each hour, which ends up combining our notion of time and our notion of money into one congealed mess. What happens, at least for me, is that I end up judging myself and the day based on how much I just got paid. This problem has only gotten worse once I began working for myself, because there was no longer any amount of money that I could trust to be there each week for me. This can add a lot of stress, and those of you that are content (again, CONtent not conTENT) writers probably know just what I mean.

So here are three ways that I have found to reduce this tunnel vision.

1. Think About the Nature of Tunnel Vision
First, just realize the obvious. Tunnel vision means that you are looking at one thing in crazy focus while ignoring a whole lot of other information. On one hand, this is necessary. If you have to make coffee, there are a few minutes where your tunnel vision is blocking out all the things that are not related to this task. If something caught on fire, you would notice, but if there is a spot of dirt on the floor you might not. When your focus is on cleaning the floor, your tunnel vision will most certainly alert you to that dirt.

So, when you start to feel like you are worthless because you are not making enough money an hour, or that you are an idiot simply because your boss told you so, then stop for a second. Call yourself out. Tunnel Vision! How much of your mind is occupied with things related to work that really have nothing to do with you and your life outside of it?

2. Look Outside the Tunnel Intentionally

The next thing to do is look at what is inside the tunnel and outside of it. For me this morning, there were a few things in the tunnel. There was the fact that I had to pump out 15 articles in a few hours in order to post them in time to make the ten dollars an hour that I am for some reason attached to as a measure of self-worth. Then there was the fear that no more work was coming for the day. Then there was the worry that if I had to pay more rent, this job wouldn’t work. Then I called it out. Tunnel Vision.

Suddenly, the sun was warm and wonderful instead of just in my face. My coffee was delicious and the perfect temperature. My dog was adorable in his one spot of shade. I felt lucky to be able to listen to music while I worked. I felt lucky to be able to stop working in order to make a blog post. These things were previously outside of the tunnel. What are you missing out on when you start seeing work as taking up all the space?

3. Indulge in the World Outside of Your Tunnel for a Moment

Your tunnel is probably different from mine. Maybe you are obsessing about the argument you had with your partner or a recent break-up. Maybe you are worried about finding a new job, or wondering how you are going to pay for your dual overhead camshaft to get fixed. Maybe you are worried about whether or not the person you like likes you, or feeling anxious about an open mic you are going to play at next week. Whatever it is, it’s your thing and it makes sense. But what is outside of it?

Find one thing, just one thing that is not currently in your tunnel vision. Indulge in it. Maybe you have been thinking so much about your partner and their horrible mood that you forgot about calling up your best friend to say hi. Maybe you were spending so much time trying to make more money that you forgot how fun it is to take a walk and watch the leaves as they change. Find one thing that you have been neglecting, and bring it back in. Make that tunnel bigger. The most important thing to do is notice some aspect of the moment that you have been ignoring. How does the sunlight feel? How is the breeze? If you are inside, how does your chair feel under you? How is the air? Even if it is all bad, at least notice it. Wake up to it. Make an intention to feel the freshness of the air once you are out of the building, or to really notice how delicious your coffee or lunch is. Indulge in the parts of the moment that have been waiting for you to acknowledge them.

The main point is that you are completely free to stop suffocating yourself, and once you do, you are then able to watch how easily the world seems like a better place.

5 Ways to Use Your Fear to Actually Live

Everyone has fears. Some people even have phobias; which are like the superheroes of the world of fears. They can be very strong, and they can sometimes grip otherwise-functional people in seemingly unbreakable chains.

Everyone also has ups and downs. We have days where we feel alive, and days where we feel sad and numb. We have days where we don’t even notice we are numb until we feel again. Sometimes we are nostalgic and long for the days of our past, when we were doing things that were exciting; days that we felt truly alive.

I have done a lot of traveling and had many adventures, and I have had just as many days of feeling numb and bored, sad and nostalgic. Being somewhat of a fanatic for life, I am constantly trying to find the triggers and the secrets to feeling more alive. That is why I began to meditate, that is also why I have tried to outrun my routines by chasing outrageous dreams down every possible highway. Always in other people’s cars, of course, since one of my greatest fears is driving.

I have noticed, in this many-year quest of trying to find the secret to happiness, that one of the things that makes people feel most alive is doing something new. Plain and simple. It can even be something you have done before, like the dishes, but seeing it as something new can help that feeling of “wow-I’m-alive” come to the surface in full swing, washing over your hands with the soapy water.

Sometimes it can be had to figure out something “new” to do. Here, I’m going to discuss five main things you can do to get that feeling back. Five things you can do to make these days the ones that you are going to remember later when you feel nostalgic, but then you are going to also remember how to make things new again.

1. What Are Your Fears?

Now, it may seem obvious. But one way to figure out what you haven’t done in awhile is to think about what you are afraid of. Chances are, you haven’t done that in awhile. It might be driving, it might be talking to strangers in a bar. It might be getting naked, it might be singing in front of people. Do you want to feel alive? Do that thing, as long as it’s not something that most definitely leads to harm.

You probably read that paragraph and figured that yeah, you’ll do your thing someday, but probably not right now. This is understandable; it is one of your fears. However, you should at least consider taking a step towards it. If you are afraid of singing in front of people, pick a friend who you are going to sing in front of. Pick a song. Start to practice. If you are afraid of driving, start thinking about potential people to go driving with. Think of a location that is peaceful and close, something you can do with some hesitation but without utter panic. Take steps. Then pay attention to how alive you feel while you indulge in the fantastic opportunity to do something that you have potentially never done or have not done for years.

2. Acknowledge Your Potential Fear of Doing Nothing

If my few years of Shambhala Buddhist meditation have taught me anything, it’s that I have always had, and still have, a fear of doing nothing. This is true for most people, as far as I can tell. Something about watching the chatter of the mind and acknowledging it for what it is is scary; because we really want to take it seriously. Our problems matter, our worries matter, our minds matter. The truth is, we are fine without them for a few minutes at a time, but we rarely take the time to figure that out.

One of the best ways to feel alive again is to take some time to develop a sitting practice. Pick what you want, because there are a slew of options available. I personally recommend the Shambhala form of sitting meditation, but other people love Vipassana, and some others love Zen. Find one that relates to you.

The reason that a sitting practice can help you feel more alive is because it helps you get back to the moment. The one that is always happening now; the one where feeling alive happens. You cannot sit there and indulge in a memory of your first kiss and really feel the same way you felt then. It was your first, it had that quality of first-ness to it. A sitting practice can help you cultivate that amazing feeling during any moment of the day.

3. Remember to Walk Into the Feeling of Fear or Anxiety

One of the most useful tips I have ever gotten was from my friend Mike, a devoted Shambhala Buddhist. I told him I was feeling anxious a lot of the time, and he told me to be curious about the feeling. To walk into it, in a way. To just welcome it and feel every nuance of it. It sounded crazy. Then I was in a car going to Boston, feeling panicky about how we were going to find our way, whether or not we were going to make it in time, whether or not someone was going to be drunk and run their car into ours.

And then I remembered his advice. I started to feel curious about my feeling of anxiety, I started to welcome it. A magical thing happened. Suddenly, the car seemed big and safe. The highway seemed long and welcoming; the scenery around me was expanding and spacious. The feeling had stopped caging me in, and the same can happen to you. Cultivate curiosity about your fears and let that feeling of life happen again.

4. Apply Curiosity to Everything

Curiosity. It is not only a beautiful word that manages to have a lovely shape and roll off the tongue quite nicely, it is also a magic trick. If you can have curiosity about your own feelings, especially those of fear or anxiety, you are walking with a tool in your tool chest that will never fail you. During your times of depression, anxiety, panic, obsession, or fear, try to feel curious. What does your body feel like? What is your mind doing? When you can really feel curious, suddenly these feelings lose some type of power. They are being looked at, they are no longer swarming your consciousness like a heavy blanket on a sweltering day. They are, in many cases, completely manageable. You just have to wonder about them, and watch them try to defend their existence to you. When they try to defend it, all you have to do is wonder a little bit more. This will probably dissolve a lot of the power that these things had to make you feel numb or trapped.

5. Take That Curiosity and Fearlessness Outside!

Okay. It may seem completely over-said, but you need to go outside. Take those fears, take that numbness and depression, take the anxiety and panic, and carry it outside with your curiosity. Regardless of the season, walk yourself to the woods, or the cemetery, or wherever else you want. Look at the angles of the buildings, the curves of the trees, the color of the sky. Have that curiosity about the world around you. Let it take over the present moment, leaving that feeling of numbness in the past. If you can welcome in some of those fears while you are out there, in the sunshine or moonlight, the crisp cold of winter or the obnoxious heat of summer, then by all means go for it. Bring those fears in the open and allow them to show you exactly what you need to do in order to feel more alive again.

The bottom line is that you have all the tools you need to feel alive again. All you need to do is find some curiosity within yourself and apply it to your least favorite feelings. If possible, start up a sitting practice of whatever religious leaning you choose, and use it to face that fear of doing nothing, which will come back daily and give you even more reason to keep practicing!