Do you ever find it difficult just being you? All the parts of your life might be ideal, others might envy you, but you find the daily experience of just being you to be too much to tolerate? I never begrudge anyone else her life because you never know the challenges that someone else might secretly be battling. We have very few pinholes into others’ lives. Although we live in a voyeuristic age of social media, an era where every step we take and each breath we breathe is documented, it’s generally only the superficial which we choose to share and expose with others. We don’t really glimpse into others’ internal workings except in the most shallow of dissections. In a way, the manner in which we choose to communicate and share with those who are in our circles, through electronic and social media, transforms our lives into some kind of reality show.
So I don’t know what it feels like to be you. And you don’t know what it feels like to be me. But if I asked you one question, if you could think of one way you could be happier being you, what would it be? Do you know the answer?
I know my answer. It’s the buzzword of the century, but it’s the truth, to be more mindful. To take each hour one hour at a time. To fill each hour, one at a time, in a meaningful way.
You see, I’m an expert at wasting time. At letting my mind spin. I’ve tried the thought diffusion techniques, the ones where you picture your thoughts on leaves floating down a river. My river got clogged. I’ve tried labeling thoughts that were judgments. I think in about ten minutes I had gathered about twenty thoughts that could be depicted as judgmental (mostly negative ones concerning myself). I know, I know, in Eastern philosophical thought one goal is to minimize thoughts that put a spin on life, either as good or bad. These types of mindfulness exercises are ineffective for me, and I’ve tried them for years.
But why should every exercise work for every mind? My ballet classes certainly didn’t do it for Andrew, and as I lack the coordination to follow flying objects, his ultimate games would certainly be a failure for me to glean enjoyment and exercise. We are individuals, so I don’t see why the same mindfulness techniques would work equally for everyone as well.
What does work for me is to take life one hour at a time and to fill each hour in a way that feels meaningful. If I can lose myself in that hour in some activity, it is much easier to tolerate what my acting teacher last year called the horror of existence, while we were preparing scenes from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
If you think too hard about it, existence is a very messy affair. We eat and dispel squishy, wet objects. We experience physical and emotional pain and trauma. Life, like our pets, might play roughly at times. We all have our battles and demons to fight. I thought it would get easier with age (I started this line of thought in elementary school, surely junior high would be easier), but, with time, life, in some ways, just gets more complex and disarranged. We experience more loss on every front and are burdened by more baggage. For every generation, it seems, the world has crept toward more pessimistic outcomes. We might not be able to save the world from disaster.
But what can I do, right now, for the next hour to make my world or someone else’s world more bearable? To me, mindfulness is concentrating just on an hour in front of me and exploiting it without being ensnared in an obsessive vortex. Mindfulness to me is the answer to the question: What is one thing you can do to make it a little easier being you?