Hillary, on antibiotics for pneumonia, attending the September 11th ceremony, looking worn and exhausted, almost faint from dehydration, worried me. The week before, the worry had begun as I watched how difficult it was for her to control a hacking cough during an essential speech. I was so concerned I wrote a message imploring her to take care of her health and to hydrate. The next day, I was relieved to learn about the medical mandate to rest and allow her body to heal.
How many times in my lifetime have I put my head down, clenched my teeth and powered through what, at the time, seemed essential. During my multi-tasking, mother-career, midlife years, it was a habit, a bad habit that ultimately took its toll in stress related symptoms. Like Hillary, it took a diagnosis, a knock on the side of the head, to step back and consider my daily choices.
This post is not about Hillary or my enlightenments from symptoms. It is about mindfulness, how its illusive quality, like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, is an essential component of health.
This past Tuesday, I had lunch with David, my former training partner. For over a year, we had tried, but failed to pin down a time for our yearly lunch. When Tuesday came, he e-mailed me and I, him, just to make sure. Lunch with David is always pithy, funny and rich with stories.
At one point, we came to the topic of mindfulness, how intentional effort seems to bring the best result. I prefer movement— tai-chi, indoors or sauntering in the garden, spending time breathing in the sweet smells, touching the plants. David takes three deep breaths through key points of the day, often before a meal, which sets the stage for shifting his mindset to quiet and nourishment.
I was aware that all during my lunch of salad greens, bites of tomato and salmon, I was eating slowly and mindfully. Just bringing the subject to mind slows me down. As I write this post, my mind floats on images, my fingers on the keyboard follow. I am in a meditative state.
Mindfulness is the opposite of powering through. To power through, one focuses on a goal with little attention to one’s bodily needs— hunger, thirst, fatigue, or time of day.
“Creating space in the day to stop, come down from the worried mind, and get back into the present moment has been shown to be enormously helpful in mitigating the negative effects of our stress response,” Elisha Goldstein writes in Mindful magazine. http://www.mindful.org/stressing-out-stop/
There are many roads to Rome and so it is with mindfulness. Whatever it takes to downshift, to be in the moment and present is basic to the practice of mindfulness. In this hurry-up-news sound-bite culture, mindfulness to nourish our body and mind must be intentional and perhaps, as varied and balanced as one’s choice of foods. As for me, I’m grateful for the idea of adding David’s “three breaths” exercise to my daily menu.