At the Diabetes Sisters conference, there was a lot of talk about mindfulness. And it was a term thrown out constantly, with everyone nodding their heads, but I was sitting there thinking, "I have no idea what mindfulness is."
During one of the sessions, a definition of mindfulness was offered: "It's moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness." Okay. "Being in the moment." Gotcha. "Appreciating the fruitfulness of the moment." (I can't lie: I do like anyone who uses the word "fruitfulness" while I'm eating a banana. Game on.)
I wanted to harness this power of mindfulness, because it seemed like a really nice, calm place to be, mentally. I thought I'd have a bit of a leg up on your average person, because living with a chronic illness heightens self-awareness in a lot of unique ways, so I figured I'd have mindfulness in the bag.
There was a moment of guided meditation, during which the room full of people closed their eyes and were gently encouraged to let their mind wander where ever it wanted to, to focus on their posture and breathing, and to just find a centered place of relaxation. When the brief exercise was over, one woman talked about not wanting to open her eyes and "return" to the room.
I couldn't confess that I didn't want to close my eyes in the first place.
One of my (many) problems is that I'm not good at relaxation. Even if my body is relaxed, my mind is usually racing. Kind of at all times. Before I started working for myself, I threw myself into my jobs, and now that I'm self-employed, my work day is only briefly interrupted by sleep. This doesn't bring me to a very zen-like place, but I don't mind terribly because I like being busy. And an intimidating to do list makes the fire under me burn a bit brighter.
(I think I unfortunately thrive on chaos.)
Which is why these discussions about mindfulness made me uncomfortable. It's not that I didn't agree with what was being presented, or that the concept didn't resonate for me, but more that it's just not my kind of mentality. I've tried yoga, and meditation, and other calming exercises, but what seems to make me feel calmest is either being on a beach with a book to read, or crossing another item off that to do list. There's not much gray area for me.
There was a "mindful eating" focus that really stuck with me. The point was to bring the focus back to slowing things down and being very aware of the moments we spend consuming food, instead of the standard shovel-haul so many of us employ. I really appreciate the concept behind this, but I hadn't ever tried it before, so I didn't know how I'd actually feel about doing it.
We were told to take a small portion of trail mix and to select one item from our pile. I grabbed a yellow M & M.
And then it began an exercise in utilizing all the senses. We were told to examine the item with our eyes, taking note of the shape, color, and visual texture. Then we put the item in our mouth, but were asked not to chew it. Instead, we were told to recognize the saliva in our mouths, and to run our tongue over the item. Then we were told to chew the single item for a few seconds. Then we were told to swallow.
For whatever reason, this mindful eating exercise completely skeeved me out. I have a tendency to eat quickly, either to treat a low or in recognition of the brief moments I have while the Bird is napping, but I don't eat without appreciation. However, I really didn't like taking three full minutes to consume one M & M. By the time we were sanctioned for swallowing, I was grossed out. Something about all that talk about saliva and rolling a single candy around in my mouth made me go "blargh."
I wanted to achieve that mindfulness. I wanted my brain to be less clouded by the fog of chaos I usually roll around in. But all I could think was, "I never, ever want to eat an M & M again."
I know I need to find more "down time" in my life, but I don't think I'm wired for mindfulness. My zen-like place is somewhere ... but I haven't found it yet.
[Disclosure: I was asked to attend the conference by the team at Animas, and they paid my travel, lodging, and expenses. Full details on my relationship with Animas here. And this is what happens when you're too close to a cat.]