I’ve been reading two books simultaneously, which is not unusual for me. Often, I have three or four going at the same time, dipping into one and out of the another. I seldom finish books I read in this manner, getting bored or distracted along the way, which is not surprising I guess, but the two I’ve been reading this week point to the very issue of my scattered brain.

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The first book is Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation In Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The second is Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

Both books focus on “mindfulness,” the concept of fostering a wakeful perception of the present moment. In other words, paying attention to the individual instants that make up your life, thereby gaining clarity of mind.

Jon Kabat-Zinn gets at this through a series of graceful, non-directed meditative exercises. Thoreau just left his city and moved into a cabin by a pond in the woods.

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I’ve been to Walden. Thoreau’s cabin is tiny and the pond is lovely. I can understand very easily how one could let the world go about its busy business while one just watched the ants build their anthills grain-of-sand by grain-of-sand while the fluffy clouds drift by. Oh, the tranquility of it all. Thoreau drifted here for over two years. Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests we practice wakefulness for a lifetime.

Like most things, it’s easier said than done. But I’ve been giving it a go. The hardest part is, well, all of it.

We live in a world of a million distractions that keep us from seeing the world in front of us. We’re constantly tuning out or ignoring everything because we think we have something else more important to think about or do.

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I don’t hear the crow cawing in the treetop above my study window or the rustle of leaves in the wind, or even Bach playing in the background because I’m too busy hearing the email “ding” on my cell phone while I’m trying to write this blog while the itch on my shoulder intrudes. And of course, the bigger issues intrude on my consciousness constantly…war in the Middle East, Supreme Court rulings, the cost of food, the California drought, population growth (a personal favorite of mine), asteroids hitting the earth (it could happen couldn’t it?)…then I come back to the small things…my sore toe, my crappy tee-shots, the nasty raccoons in my backyard peeing everywhere….

On and on the stew stirs in my brain. How to quiet it?

Well, according to both books, that’s best done by focusing only on the present moment and letting that one moment be your whole world because it is your whole world at that moment. The worries and preoccupations of the past and the worries and preoccupations of the future truly do not exist. They are make-believe. My goal, well not a goal exactly, that’s too left-brainy, rather my choice…is to un-make-believe them.

Hard to do. But I’m trying.

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So, I take a breath and exhale now. I gaze at the black leather couch across the desk in my office. I see it anew. I look at its outline. I trace its graceful arc across the olive green wall where it rests. I let my eyes gaze deeply at the painting Nettie painted that hangs above the couch. My little vignette of couch and painting. My little world. My complete, tranquil focus. My present. My detailed everything. My heart slows…my breathing calms. It works…

for about ten seconds. Then the stew simmers and soon boils over.

I haven’t given up, I’ve been practicing my mindfulness for a couple of weeks now. As frequently as I can I pause what I’m doing, take a breath, I slow down, I concentrate deeply on the details of the moment and attempt to let it become all of me.

It’s been an interesting experience…but a couple of days ago, mindfulness turned ugly on me…very ugly indeed.

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I needed swimmer’s ear plugs. “Needed” is a bit of a strong word perhaps, but I’m sick of my ears filling up with the saltwater of my pool when I swim. I figured Sports Chalet would be the right place. I took my new mindfulness brain off to the mall. Little did I know what a shock I was in for.

When I walked through the front door of Sports Chalet, I was nearly struck dumb by the staggering quantity of stuff on the shelves! My finely tuned, new mindful brain that saw everything in detail now went into instant overload at the aisles after aisles of shiny colored gear for every possible sport there is from lacrosse to tailgating. That’s right…tailgating at a sports event is apparently now a sport in and of itself.

As I staggered through the various departments, I could feel my sensitized brain recoiling from the avalanche of stimuli…baseball, basketball, football, tennis, kayaking, cycling, golfing, fishing, soccer, archery, boxing, running, walking, even standing-still sports gear. The list could go on for paragraphs, especially when you consider the volume of clothing on sale to match all these sports. It hangs from the walls; it’s stuffed into shelves; it bluges from floor stands.

Thoreau echoed in my ears: My greatest skill in life has been to want but little…

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By the time I made it to the swim department, I was sweaty and breathless, but the overload continued on…I nearly collapsed at the sight of the wall of swim goggles available. Wow!

Somehow, I found my little box of water ear plugs amid the obscene abundance (yes I was deeply mindful too of the nuanced idiocy of requiring earplugs to take a dip in my backyard pool).

I closed my eyes most of the way to the cashier as I staggered from the swim gear to the front of the store.

When I got back in my car, limp and exhausted, I knew what I had to do and do quickly if I were to keep my sanity. I needed to find my own isolated cabin in the woods with a pond nearby…

…or maybe I’d just have to give up my search for clarity of mind and return to the peaceful territory of my familiar, scattered brain.

There’s got to be a book or two out there that can help with that decision.

 

 

 

 

3 Responses to Frenzy At Sports Chalet

  1. annette zajaczkowski says:

    Fun post. SC is a crazy place, almost as crazy as your mind.

  2. Frank Z says:

    Great blog! Amidst the insanity of the material world is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the effort that guides us toward awareness. You were certainly aware of the obsenity of commercialism.
    One breath at a time.
    Well done
    Much love Victoria

  3. Mary says:

    Time to plan that trip ‘Down-Under’ Frank. Yes, the cacophony of life occurs here too but on a smaller, quieter level. In such a vastly different land I’m sure you would enjoy finding a million ‘Cabin and Pond’ areas to practise ‘Mindfulness’. Let me know if you ever find that book! Love to all the family, Mary

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