Have you noticed the effect of this summer’s ‘weather’ on your mind? We all know that our bodies clearly tell us when the weather outside is too hot or too hazy. We sweat and we move more slowly. And we know what to do about it. We find some shade or air conditioning, and we find something cool to drink. Constant heat and haze are not healthy for our bodies and so we do what we can to mitigate the effects.
But what about the heat and haziness that can occur in our minds? Are we conscious of the times when that is happening, or do those conditions sneak up on us until they show up as impatience or anger? How can we begin to notice the condition of our minds more quickly and more routinely so we are not reaching the boiling point before we notice that something is not right? And what do we do to turn down the heat, and clear away the haze?
Notice the temperature rising
It can help to look at some of the factors that change the weather in our mind from clear and cool to hot and hazy. At the top of the list is a mile long to-do list. There simply is too much to do in too little time. We seem to always be rushing yet the list doesn’t ever get shorter. People are pulling us in many directions and we can find ourselves reacting to the tyranny of the urgent at the expense of what is important. On a deep level, we know this isn’t a skillful way to live, and we become agitated.
In close second is the lack of self-care…not enough sleep, poor eating habits, and no time set aside for strengthening relationships or cultivating our resilience. We tell ourselves there is no choice, this is just the way it is. Or we act from a place of insecurity and fear, saying ‘yes’ to everything and everyone, except ourselves. Again we know that something is wrong and we may begin to notice a sense of resentment or sadness about the way things ‘have to be’.
Of course these are not the only things that make it difficult to have a clear, calm mind. But they are the most common. And, whatever the cause, when our minds overheat they are much less likely to be focused, clear or compassionate.
Some simple mindfulness coolers
Challenge what is: take a look at your calendar for today. As you read through each item, pay attention to any sensations that may arise in your body (tightening in your neck, uncomfortable gut feeling, etc). Your body is sending you a message. Is there something you want to change? Take a small step toward the changes you want each day.
Punch a couple of holes in the autopilot day: choose two places in your day where you will take a few minutes for yourself. It need not be a long time, just long enough to bring your full attention to caring for yourself. It might be a cup of coffee that you actually taste and enjoy to the last drop, or it might be a 5 minute walk around the building breathing in fresh air and letting your body stretch out. Whatever you choose, pay attention to what you are doing and let go of ruminations about the past or plans for the future. For those few minute, just be in your own good company, caring for your mind and body.
Try these practices for a few days and see if you notice yourself meeting life with a little less impatience, anger and frustration, and a little more equanimity and clarity.